Friday, May 21, 2010

Can Bayern Munich Emulate Celtic In '67 To Beat Jose Mourinho and Inter Milan?

Bayern Munich take on Inter Milan in the 2010 UEFA Champions League Final on Saturday as complete outsiders to win the much coveted trophy.
However, one match will have been playing on Louis van Gaal's mind all week as he prepares his troops for battle: the European Cup Final in 1967, when rank outsiders Celtic beat Inter Milan 2-1 in the Stadium of Light in Lisbon.
There are many parallels between the Le Grande Inter of the '60s managed by Helenio Herrara with that of the Inter Milan of today under the stewardship of Jose Mourinho.

Herrara managed Inter for eight years between 1960 and 1968, bringing them remarkable success, three Scudetto titles in 1963, '65, and '66, as well as two European Cups (what the Champions League used to be known as) in 1964 and 1965, and he was recognised as being one of, if not the, most tactically astute coach of his day.
Under his stewardship Inter Milan perfected Catenaccio , an extremely defensive 5-3-2 formation built upon defence with swift counter attacking. It was a tactic that was proved to be Inter's greatest weapon as well as being their Achilles Heel .
Like Herrera before him, Jose Mourinho is now rated by many as being the greatest coach in the game. In his relatively short 10-year career as a manager he has achieved more than most men would in a lifetime.
Numerous league and cup titles across three different countries mark him out as a manager who knows what it takes to win, and he has shown a great variance with his tactics to achieve this, using different formations and styles depending upon the occasion.
One remarkable statistic that may have escaped some people's attention is that Jose Mourinho is unbeaten at "home" as a coach in over eight years, dating back to 23rd February 2002 when Porto were beaten by little known Beira-Mar 3-2.
At Porto his record stands at played 38, won 36, drawn two. At Chelsea, played 60, won 46, drew 14. At Inter Milan, played 38, won 29, drew nine.
In short, Jose is a genius.
His Inter team have always been amongst the best in Europe but they needed the guidance and psychological motivation that Mourinho brings to the table for them to finally fulfill their Champions League ambitions.
He has also worked wonders in the transfer market, picking up players like Samuel Eto'o (Barcelona), Wesley Sneijder (Real Madrid), and Gabriel Milito (Genoa) when others were either happy to discard them or just did not rate them to play at the highest level.
He has brought these players into his Internazionale side and they have all bought into his dreams and plans for them, rejuvenating some careers and bringing others onto levels otherwise unthought of.
Like Herrara in the '60s, Jose is a student of the game. He lives and breathes football, never letting his players' form dip below his expectations for them.
Both managers use psychological warfare both on and off the field and two famous Herrara quotes could be mistaken for Jose's if you did not know any better: "With 10 our team plays better than with 11" and "Class + Preparation + Intelligence + Athleticism = Championships."
Herrera was also one of the first managers in the game to purposely take credit for the results of his team, often stating that the victories were down to his "special" tactical knowledge and team choice; one would almost think of Herrara as Jose version 1.0.
Mourinho's players trust him and he has shown that trust right back by bringing them a domestic double, and a real chance at a treble.
The chips are stacked against Louis van Gaal's side to win this game and in the run up to the final he has put his team down at every opportunity, saying they are a worse side than the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Barcelona, who Inter Milan famously knocked out with a phenomenal defensive display.
Van Gaal knows that, on paper, his team is deficient to Mourinho's side in virtually every technical department.
However, football is played in the heart and mind long before you even get a chance to kick a ball.
Just like Celtic back in 1967, van Gaal will have taken a leaf from Jock Stein's football notebook and will have instilled a will to win upon his team that Inter will have to beat first before they can win the match.
If the Inter of 2010 go out with the same attitude of the Inter Milan of 1967 and sit back in the knowledge that their defensive shell is impregnable to this lower class of player, then they will be in for the fight, and possible fright, of their lives.
Back in '67, Inter took the lead in the seventh minute with a Mazzola penalty. Herrara's side then sat back and let their Catenaccio take over as they invited wave upon wave of Celtic attacks.
The stripes of Inter made it to halftime unscathed and quite happy with themselves, Herrara saw no need to change the tactics that had worked so well over the past seven years, never mind the last 45 minutes.
But that was all to change in the 63rd minute when Tommy Gemmell fired home the equalizer. By that stage the momentum of the match had swung in Celtic's favour by so much that Inter Milan could not change their gameplan.
Celtic kept coming, and in the 83rd minute the inevitable happened. Bobby Murdoch's long range shot was deflected past Sarti into the Inter goal and the game was as good as over, the legend of the Lisbon Lions in its birth.
That particular game will weigh heavily on both managers' minds this week. Inter are obvious favourites, and their best tactic is to defend. Jose Mourinho is traditionally conservative and every one of his teams are best described as effective rather than attractive, although that might change if he is to join Real Madrid...
Louis van Gaal and Bayern Munich's best effort at winning this game is to attack right from the off.
They have a manager who is every bit Jock Stein's equal, a winger in Arjen Robben who can mesmerize the best of defences, just as "Jinky" Jimmy Johnsen did in the '60s, while Bobby Murdoch made Celtic tick just as the aging Mark van Bommel does now, and Tommy Gemmell was a left back who was known for his surging runs and superb shooting ability, exactly like Phillipe Lahm is today.
The parallels are wide and many. Will history repeat itself in Madrid?