Friday, May 21, 2010

Two Down, One To Go! Mourinho and Van Gaal's Treble Quest

Come May 22nd, either the master (Louis Van Gaal) or the apprentice (Jose Mourinho) would have achieved two milestones in their career. One, Inter Milan or Bayern Munich will have captured the unique treble (domestic league, domestic cup and continental cup). Two, either manager will become only the third manager to have won this prestigious tournament twice with two different clubs.

Everyone knows the history behind Van Gaal and Mourinho. It was Van Gaal who spotted the potential of Mourinho and offered him the chance to work with him. Mourinho calls Van Gaal his "teacher" and with good reason, as Mourinho's demeanor seemed to mirror the arrogance and aloofness of Louis Van Gaal. The tough taskmaster attitude towards their players are remarkably similar.

The similarities in team preparation have also been acknowledged by Louis Van Gaal when he spoke to Soccernet,

"Maybe he has copied me in some ways as I see some of the discipline I have in my teams instilled in those organised by Jose. We insist our team teams play with total concentration and with everyone switched on to do the tasks they have been given.
"However, we are also different in many ways. Mourinho teaches his team to win at all costs, while my objective is to win with style and attacking play, which is not so easy. Also Jose seems to be very proactive in affecting games. I don't behave in such an extreme way, but that is his personality."

Ivica Olic and Thomas Mueller would not have thought of themselves as players who could keep Miroslav Klose, Mario Gomez and (departed) Luca Toni away from the Bayern attack. Yet, their good form and fine running have been key to Bayern's improved season. Midway through the season, Louis Van Gaal suddenly found an effective attacking front of Robben, Olic and Mueller. Jose's Inter are also not lacking in attack. Ex-Barca great, Samuel Eto'o can be a matchwinner at any stage of the match. Diego Milito's match intelligence and eye for goal have been apparent all season. Troubled Mario Balotelli is indeed a flawed genius who can trouble any defence in Jose's favoured 4-3-3 formation.

In midfield, Inter have some very experienced midfielders in Cambiasso, Stankovic and Sneijder. This midfield trio combines hardworking industry, dead ball prowess and creative imagination which already brought Inter the Coppa Italia and Serie A title. All three are big game players and can be relied on. The German champions have Bastian Schweinsteiger and Arjen Robben to provide the thrust from midfield. Mark Van Bommel is the midfield destroyer, who will likely be tasked to pick up Inter's Wesley Sneijder. Hamit Altintop is an excellent replacement for Franck Ribery. With the power and pace of the Bayern midfield, Mourinho may have to play Christian Chivu to disrupt the Bayern midfield rhythm.

Defensively, Bayern are weaker than Inter. Former Bayern defender, Lucio must be looking forward to a reunion with his old club. However, both Samuel and Lucio are slow on the turn which may allow Bayern's speedy attack some opportunities. Similarly, Martin Demichelis and Daniel van Buyten are not the steadiest so it will be very interesting indeed. Maicon is the best rightback in world football right now and will provide more attacking problems for Bayern's Badstuber. Julio Cesar is a fantastic goalkeeper. The Inter defence are more confident with Cesar behind them, directing defensive matters in front of him.

Bayern seems to be the club with more firepower and the pace of Arjen Robben can unlock any defence, even one as stout as Inter's. However, Inter has the more experienced players and that big-match temperament should be able to overcome the newly crowned Bundesliga champions.

The pundits and analysts are predicting a boring match because it is Inter. I am looking forward to a tactical match between two tactical masters, it would be interesting to see who comes out on top. Will it be the apprentice putting one over the master?

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