By Joe Milord
With La Liga having resumed, Jose Mourinho finds himself in a familiar situation. After all, in some ways, he has been here before; back against the wall, protecting a lead, against the same opposition as well, but in a much different context. It’s not too long ago that Inter Milan, under the tutelage of “The “Special One,” traveled to Barcelona in search of a first European Cup final birth since their 1972 defeat at the hands of Ajax.
Playing with 10 men for a majority of the match, the Nerazzuri faced an onslaught the likes of which, for all the great displays from Barcelona in recent years, have seldom been seen at Camp Nou. Wave of attack after wave of attack came at Inter’s final third, but Barca were staved off by a show of discipline that screamed implications of military-like drilling on the Milan club’s training ground. Offensive players bore resemblance to defensive stalwarts, bodies were put on the line, but in the end Inter came out as survivors with a final in Madrid serving as the reward for their herculean effort. While that second leg will memorably stand alone, in lore for Inter, in infamy for Barca, those efforts would have been futile had it not been for a 3-1 win at the San Siro a week before, a victory that gave Mourinho and his team room for error, and most importantly, a foundation on which to stand for the second half of their semi-final endeavors.
Much like Inter after their first leg in Milan, Real Madrid earned themselves a comfortable lead at the top of La Liga ahead of the season’s first meeting with the Blaugrana. They’d won 11 games on the bounce and had established a 6 point gap at the top, while Barcelona stumbled against the likes of Athletic Bilbao and Getafe. But with Real Madrid having lost to their rivals again, what seems to have developed is an undeniable sense of inevitability that comes with Spain’s greatest footballing rivalry. It’s the feeling that no matter what Madrid try, they will never have enough to topple Barca. In this sense, the Clásicos of the Mourinho-Pep era serve as a metaphor for the struggle between the two clubs vying for the league title. But for all the inevitability that is felt when Real Madrid go toe-to-toe with Barca that does not and, thus far, has not translated to both teams’ league play. It is with this notion in mind that we can draw the lesson of greatest relevance from that famous night when Mourinho ruled Camp Nou.