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Mourinho’s ambush of Guardiola and Barca, under a volcanic cloud

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Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola (L) greets Manchester United’s Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho before the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on November 11, 2018. AFP

AFP – Ten years ago this week, Barcelona limped home from a Champions League semi-final first-leg defeat blaming a volcano thousands of kilometres away and stoking the smouldering fires of Jose Mourinho’s feud with their club and their coach.

The eruption of Eyjafjallajoekull on Iceland had sent a plume of ash drifting across Europe, grounding flights and playing havoc with the sports calendar.

A MotoGP race scheduled for Japan on April 25 was postponed until October because teams and riders could not get there.

As bad luck would have it, Newcastle United faced the longest away trip in English football on April 19. They made the 650-kilometre (404-mile) journey to Plymouth Argyle for a Monday night game by coach and won, 2-0, to secure promotion and relegate the hosts.

In Europe, Lyon travelled 730 kilometres to face Bayern Munich in the Champions League on April 21.

For the Europa League semis on April 22, Fulham went 950 kilometres by bus to Hamburg. In order to face Atletico Madrid in Spain, Liverpool covered 2,000 kilometres by train to Bordeaux, changing in London and Paris, and then went the last 700 kilometres by plane.

Lyon and Liverpool both lost 1-0, a disadvantage neither could overturn in the second legs. Fulham drew 0-0 on their way to their first European final.

But the most volcanic encounter began at San Siro on April 20.

Barcelona made their 1,000-kilometre trek to Milan over two days, spending a night en route in Cannes. Coach Pep Guardiola used the 14 hours on the coach to show his squad match videos but they also watched Invictus and Inglourious Basterds.

Meanwhile, in Milan, Mourinho schemed.

This tie might have marked the start of his spiky battle with Guardiola, but it was not the start of Mourinho’s grudge with Barcelona.

Mourinho had joined Barca in 1996, when his mentor, Bobby Robson, became coach. Mourinho translated, but also organised training and played an increasing role in coaching, taking over the B team under Robson’s successor, Louis van Gaal.

Guardiola was team captain for most of Mourinho’s time at the club.

Mourinho made an explosive return with Chelsea in the Champions League in 2005.

Barcelona won the first leg 2-1 but that game was marred by Mourinho accusing Barca coach Frank Rijkaard of visiting referee Anders Frisk at half-time.

Frisk ended up quitting after death threats from Chelsea fans. Chelsea won the second leg 4-2 to advance. Mourinho had got the better of his former club.

In 2008, Guardiola and Mourinho were the candidates to replace Rijkaard before the Catalan native got the job.

They first met as coaches in the 2009/10 group stage. At the Camp Nou, Barcelona, who had won the trophy in Guardiola’s first season, beat Inter 2-0.

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