Barcelona are travelling by bus to Tuesday’s Champions League semifinal first leg at Inter Milan, showing not even grounded flights and a huge volcanic ash cloud can halt the brilliance of Lionel Messi and Co.
Inter, though, did manage the rare feat of stopping the holders and their Argentine magician from scoring back in September when they met in a goalless draw in the group stages at the San Siro.
A 0-0 draw in the La Liga derby with Espanyol on Saturday and tired limbs from the 985-km bus trip, including an overnight stay in Cannes, will also give Inter hope that Barca will not be at their sparkling best.
An ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano has stopped air transport for much of Europe but Barca are not making excuses.
“With so many hours together on the coach, I am sure it will help us to be more united and to create a tight-knit group to beat Inter,” midfielder Sergio Busquets said. “It’s a long journey and it’s not something we are used to but with music and some films I’m sure the trip will feel much shorter.”
Coach Pep Guardiola, without the injured Andres Iniesta but with former Inter striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and leftback Eric Abidal back in his squad, has time to mull tactics.
In recent games, Guardiola has dropped one forward in his attacking trident in favour of a fullback, Daniel Alves or Maxwell, who have played in an advanced role to help combat opponents’ attempts to crowd the midfield. But it was not very effective on Saturday.
Meticulous Inter coach Jose Mourinho will have taken note of how Espanyol successfully disrupted Barca's creative department, keeping Messi and Xavi largely under wraps with close man-to-man marking.
Media reports have thus speculated Mourinho could make another surprise tactical move after the way his unexpectedly attacking line-up stifled Chelsea. Rightback Maicon may be asked to play in a more advanced role to pack the midfield like Barca, some reports have said.
UEFA said in a statement on Sunday that the game and Wednesday’s other semifinal between Bayern Munich and Lyon would go ahead despite the travel problems.
Inter are glad the match has not been postponed after rediscovering their confidence and swagger in a 2-0 win over Juventus on Friday.
“We have to prepare for the match with tranquillity. Games like these are played more with your mind than with your feet,” Inter’s former Barca striker Samuel Eto’o said.