Inter Milan manager Luciano Spalletti has joked his side "would lose 18-0" if they got ready for games in the same manner that upcoming UEFA Champions League Group B opponents Barcelona do.
The Nerazzurri host their Catalan counterparts on Tuesday, and Spalletti marvelled at Barca's relaxed approach to affairs in the build-up to their Camp Nou clash a fortnight ago, when the home side won 2-0. Per Juan Jimenez of AS, he said:
"At the Camp Nou [ahead of the sides' first Group B meeting last month], I saw them come out to warm up 10 minutes before the game [...]. We had even asked if they had a gym inside [the stadium] that we could start warming up in, but no.
"Not only that, but my players have told me that, on the afternoon of the game, the Barca guys had gone to pick up their kids from school and had then got in their cars to go to the stadium. If we prepared for games like that, we'd lose 18-0."
He added how that ethos carries into their play on the pitch: "Possession of the ball is something that's impossible to get out of their head. That's been their mindset for years, and they buy players to fit this style of play. A Barca player might very well have problems in another team, but not there."
The Blaugrana were also recently buoyed by the return to training of Lionel Messi, who fractured the radial bone in his arm less than three weeks ago and looks as though he could feature in Milan:
On a potential meeting with the Argentinian, Spalletti would unsurprisingly prefer to face a Barca lineup that doesn't include the five-time Ballon d'Or winner: "I'd rather he didn't play. When he's on the pitch, he makes Barca a spectacularly strong [attacking] force."
And although Inter's coach may have found flaws in Barcelona's preparation, it at least appeared to work for them two weeks ago, when goals from Rafinha and Jordi Alba sealed a confident victory.
Ernesto Valverde's Camp Nou hosts were deserved victors that evening—they had 11 shots on target to Inter's two, per WhoScored.com—and one could argue it's Barca's relaxed attitude that's one of their greatest strengths.
Youngsters at Barca's La Masia academy are taught to prioritise the fundamentals of the game from an early age, but there's also a sense of fun to their fascination with football.
Spalletti previously had more serious praise for Spanish teams and their methods following Inter's humbling in Catalonia last month, per Football Espana:
“I think there is a difference with the Spanish sides, as they move the ball quicker, they think faster, are more reactive when a situation changes; you have to look beyond what you can see,” Spalletti told Sky Sport Italia after the game.
“If we can’t get past their initial pressure and take control of the gap left behind, clearly it becomes very difficult. We didn’t pass the ball properly, we were unable to elude their pressing and were always under pressure."
Barcelona are able to embrace such a relaxed manner due to the quality of talent in their squad, but it's also a philosophy that's been built over decades and really began when Johan Cruyff arrived as manager in 1988.
As Spalletti put it, a Barca player could struggle under different tactics, but Valverde's stars have proved time and again how a more laid-back life works to a tee for them.