MILAN - Jose Mourinho is nearing the pinnacle of European football again.

MILAN - Jose Mourinho is nearing the pinnacle of European football again.

The "Special One" outmaneuvered counterpart Pep Guardiola as Inter suffocated Barcelona in a 3-1 win in the opening leg of the Champions League semifinals on Tuesday.

Mourinho guided FC Porto to the European title in 2004, and he can sense he's close to duplicating the feat with Inter.

Mourinho says "if Inter doesn't win this year, it will win next year. This squad is no longer too small for Europe."

Only two coaches have won the European Cup with two different clubs - Ernst Happel with Feyenoord in 1970 and Hamburg in 1983, and Ottmar Hitzfeld with Borussia Dortmund in 1997 and Bayern Munich in 2001.

Despite a heavy defeat on Tuesday, Barcelona's players are confident they can overturn the 3-1 deficit in the second leg at home.

Wesley Sneijder, Maicon and Diego Milito scored for the hosts after Pedro Rodriguez had put the visitors ahead.

Since Guardiola took the helm at the Catalan club, Barca have never lost by more than a one-goal margin. In the coach's second season in charge, they have now lost twice in the Champions League, once in the Spanish league and once in the Copa del Rey.

"It wasn't the result we wanted but we have home advantage in the second leg and can win the tie - we've done it before," said midfielder Sergio Busquets.

Pedro was equally bullish about next week's return. "We have to come back from this. Motivation won't be a problem, and with our fans behind us, I think we can do it," he said.

But Inter, and Spanish league rivals Real Madrid, will be encouraged by Barcelona's recent form. On Saturday, Espanyol held the defending champions to a 0-0 draw in the league, allowing Madrid to close the gap atop the standings to one point. - Sapa-AP