Monthly Archives: March 2011
Therefore it’s fair to say that a transfer of one of the best players in the world would be the biggest transfer in the summer.
Inter’s president has admitted that Sir Alex Ferguson has contacted him as to the Dutchman’s availability, with Chelsea also said to have expressed interest in the midfielder.
Sneijder would obviously be a great addition for either club; £40m has been mentioned as a potential price tag on Inter’s main man, like all Interista worldwide i want to see him stay with the Nerazzurri but reports are suggesting he’s had enough of Italian football and has got his eye on a move to the English Premiership.
Last season Inter acheived the one thing never acheived by an Italian club before by winning the treble and now as the season starts it’s run in here we are again with the chance of making history with back to back trebles, can it be done? I for one believe we can if the team puts their hearts and souls into every match left. Winning the treble again would be amazing but it would be made even more special by the terrible first half of the season we had under Rafa Benitez…
Most of the points are based off results of the teams’ recent matches as I believe that is the only true barometer of future success.
During the Champions League game against Bayern, and alot of other games this season the defensive frailties were all too evident. It is easy to write Inter off by saying they concede too many goals for a team who has any ambitions of winning the Champions League. However, we must keep in mind that Lucio was unfit and Ranocchia is only just getting used to playing at this level.
One key ingredient that is missing is Walter Samuel. I will go so far as to say that Samuel makes Lucio a better defender. Samuel has started individual training and if he can make it in time for the later rounds, Inter’s defense will be much closer to last season’s level.
As Giampaolo Pazzini is cup-tied, Samuel Eto’o was the lone pure striker in Diego Milito’s absence. While Pandev can dribble the ball and thread a neat pass, he will never be a 20 goals per season man. That is the reason why Milito’s return is more vital than ever. He is almost completely fit and should be ready to play after the international break.
A great player like Milito does not become mediocre in the course of a season. If anything, he is a more clinical striker than Eto’o as he requires less chances to convert. Inter’s supposed lack of attacking options will not be so evident once the Prince returns.
One thought that must worry Inter fans is the form of Esteban Cambiasso under Leonardo. This season, Cambiasso has often played in more advanced roles and has had a better goals return so far. However, his customary role of being the deepest lying midfielder now rests with Thiago Motta, more often than not.
Motta does have a better passing range but does not possess nearly the same defensive instinct as Cambiasso. Evidence of this can be seen in Bayern’s second goal where he let the ball get away. Cambiasso is less effective while playing on flank and I for one hope that he gets to play as a defensive screen just in front of the back four—particularly when Inter are playing away in the Champions League.
Dejan Stankovic’s form has also dropped alarmingly over the last few weeks. Is the Serbian good enough to demand a starting position in the first 11?
Inter being Inter
Too many times this season, Inter has been extremely poor in the first half of games. They fall behind early, only to turn it around in the second half.
Against Palermo, and against Genoa more recently, the team found itself trailing at halftime and playing well below par. However, the second half sees a completely different team that comes storming back to score three, four or even five goals.
How can a team play that differently in two halves of the same game? You can only get out of jail so many times and eventually a team will manage to hold out for a draw or win and given the state of the Scudetto race, a single point dropped can be disastrous.
The team must focus on playing consistently, maybe even wrap the game up by the 50th minute and take it easy for a mid-week game.
Julio Cesar’s Blunders
Julio Cesar along with the defense in front of him was the immovable object of last season. This season, the defense has looked shaky and so has the goal keeper.
His two mistakes in as many games against Bayern have been well documented. Fans might argue that he had a fine game other than that and in fact saved Inter on numerous occasions. But the way I see it, a keeper of Cesar’s quality, read as any top 10 keeper in the world, is expected to make at least a few world class saves every game just like Sneijder is expected to thread a magical ball through to Eto’o.
Everyone can make an odd mistake, but Cesar has been making them a bit too often. He is over thinking about his initial mistake, which leads to further mistakes. Even over the weekend, he managed to spill the ball, only to be saved by the offside flag against the Lecce striker.
Teams that win cup competitions have keepers who are at the top of their form. If Inter are to win anything, the blunders must end right now.
Inter’s backup players have done reasonably well. Coutinho played his heart out in what was his best performance in an Inter shirt. Kharja has settled in well and is a much more dependable substitute than the mercurial Muntari. Nagatomo brings an additional dimension to the attack and his presence in the Bayern penalty area when Pandev scored the winner is only testament to his attacking prowess.
Marco Materazzi has been a worry at the back all season long. Ivan Cordoba had a good run of games when Ranocchia first came into the side but his performance against Brescia was the worst I have seen for a long time. Chivu’s ability to play center back will come as a saving grace for Leonardo particularly given Inter’s luck with injuries this term.
In reality, even if Inter wins the Scudetto and Coppa Italia and reaches the semis of the Champions League, it will be a massive success in my opinion after the terrible season start we had with Rafa, these goals are well reachable and anything beyond is simply a bonus. I’d love to think we’ll get the treble again but i think we’ll have to make do with a double as i think if we get to the Champions league final i would have thought it’ll be against Barcelona and i relly can’t see us defeating them this season.
What do you guys think? Where will Inter win/lose titles this season?
Latest Inter News: Nagatomo risks Inter place for Japan, Pazzini in love with the Nerazzurri & Sanchez speculation grinds on
It’s international break week but there’s still plenty going on involving Inter and it’s players. Here are three stories keeping you up to date with our beloved Nerazzurri…
Nagatomo risks Inter place to show support for Japan
Inter Milan defender Yuto Nagatomo said today he is willing to risk his place in the Serie-A side to play for Japan in a domestic charity match to help victims of the quake-tsunami disaster.
“It is not that I don’t have any worry but there is something more important than myself,” the 24-year-old told reporters as he arrived in Osaka for the 29 March match there pitting the national team against a J-League select.
Nagatomo moved to Inter from Cesena after Japan won a record fourth AFC Asian Cup in January. He has since been in and out of the Inter line-up as the FIFA Club World Cup champions try to overtake Serie-A leaders AC Milan. “I have not come here just to play a match. I want to show how important it is not to give up. We must help many people gain courage and hope,” the full-back saud.
European clubs have released 12 Japanese players for the charity event, a replacement for a friendly against New Zealand which was cancelled after the earthquake and tsunami disaster and the subsequent of nuclear emergency.
Nagatomo said all of his club were behind Japan in the nation’s struggle to overcome the tragic 11 March disaster which has left more than 22,000 dead or missing on Japan’s Pacific coast.
“Everybody has cared about Japan. Everybody has been cooperative,” the hard-running player said, showing a football shirt autographed by Inter manager Leonardo and teammates. “I want to use it for charity.”
The former FC Tokyo left back was seen carrying a red-sun Japanese flag, reading “You’ll never walk alone”, with teammates on the pitch after Inter beat Bayern Munich 3-2 on 15 March to reach the UEFA Champions League last eight.
I can’t see this causing him to lose his place in the Inter side as he is a quality young player and he has proved his loyalty & passion not only for his home country but also to Inter as a club and for this i think he should be applauded not punished
Japan captain Makoto Hasebe also returned home, taking a timeout from his midfield duties for Wolfsburg. He said the Blue Samurai managed to book a historic last-16 berth at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa last year and regain the Asian Cup due to support from home fans.
“I will play all-out and make them feel something, although it may not be enough to repay them for their support,” said the 27-year-old. “The news of the disaster has been reported as the top news in Germany every day,” he said. “I was feeling impatient as I could do nothing there. I wanted to come home as soon as possible to do something for Japan.”
The European-based players in Alberto Zaccheroni’s squad also include CSKA Moscow midfielder Keisuke Honda and Schalke defender Atsuto Uchida.
Pazzini: First months with Inter Milan best time of my life
Giampaolo Pazzini is delighted with his first months at Inter Milan.
The 26-year-old Italy international scored the winner against Lecce on Sunday and helped Inter close the gap with League leader’s Milan to just two points.
Pazzini said: “A lot of things have happened in two months: I have tasted the most beautiful moment of my career and I hope to win something quickly.
“We have done something extraordinary making up so many points on Milan and now we can fight until the end for the Scudetto.”
I always like seeing our players showing their loyalty to Inter and i can see Pazzini being an important player for us for some time to come.
Inter keen on Alexis Sanchez
This is one transfer rumour that just doesn’t seem to be going away and it’s looking likely the starlet will be signed in the summer, which of course means that the rumours of Carlos Tevez coming to Inter are looking less likely as we have got more than our fair share of quality strikers in our squad if Sanchez signs, though if the reports that Milito will be leaving in the summer are true then who knows maybe we’ll end up with both of them, you never know stranger things have happened at Inter!
Inter President Massimo Moratti has been speaking of his desire to sign Chilean International Alexis Sanchez from Udinese. Sanchez has been setting Serie A on fire this term and he has attracted attention from all of Europe’s elite clubs.
Speaking to Sky Sport Italia Moratti said: “Alexis Sanchez really is a fantastic player. That was already clear to see a few years ago. Udinese have done a very good job to help him develop into an even better player. That will be very important for them both from an economic and sporting point of view. He’s the type of player that makes you dream.”
Alexis Sanchez has been key in Udinese’s push for the Champions League and along with Antonio Di Natale has been instrumental in helping Francesco Guidolin’s team remain unbeaten in 13 matches. The 22 year old has been linked with Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea and Inter but it has been rumoured that the Chilean would like to stay in Italy and if so the Nerazzurri would certainly be strong favourites for his signature.
Marco Branca, Inter’s Sporting Director, has made in no secret of his desire to bring Sanchez to the club and it is believed that he will be the number one transfer target for the Nerazzurri this summer.
After week 30 of this Serie A season Inter are now only 2 points behind league leaders AC Milan and the race for the Scudetto is now well and truly on. But they need to play much better than they did today in the Derby after next weeks international break. There was a spark of creativity and flair missing from today’s game but as I said in my preview I was expecting Inter to ease off a bit for this match and to be fair they got the result that was needed to take full advantage of Milan’s slip up last night.
1 Julio Cesar; 13 Maicon, 6 Lucio, 26 Chivu, 4 Zanetti; 19 Cambiasso, 8 Thiago Motta; 10 Sneijder (14 Kharja, 84); 27 Pandev (29 Coutinho, 73), 7 Pazzini, 9 Eto’o (5 Stankovic, 94)
Subs not used: 12 Castellazzi, 17 Mariga, 23 Materazzi, 55 Nagatomo.
22 Rosati; 40 Tomovic (2 Donati, 50), 13 Ferrario, 14 Fabiano, 28 Brivio (19 Piatti, 91); 10 Olivera, 20 Vives, 18 Giacomazzi (27 Jeda, 83), 91 Bertolacci, 11 Mesbah; 9 Corvia.
Subs not used: 81 Benassi, 4 Gustavo, 21 Grossmuller, 32 Coppola.
Coach: Luigi De Canio
Referee: Daniele Orsato from Schio
Notes. Bookings: Giacomazzi 41, Lucio 47, Rosati 53, Thiago Motta 70, Tomovic 85, Chivu 80.
Added time: 2 + 3. Spectators: 62,477
AC Milan eased off, but Inter didn’t and Pazzini was the one to start the climb back, his 52nd minute goal taking Inter to within 2 points of the leaders, and bringing victory to the Nerazzurri in the match against Lecce in Week 30 of Serie A.
Lecce didn’t come here to lose however, and towards the end of the match grew in stature. At the end, Julio Cesar had all his past errors forgiven when he managed to keep out a close-range blast from Bertolacci with a marvellous save.
FIRST HALF –
For the match against Lecce, Leonardo couldn’t play Cordoba, who was banned, but Zanetti had recovered and took his place on the left of the defence, with Maicon on the right and the Lucio-Chivu duo in the centre. Cambiasso and Motta were in midfield with Sneijder feeding the attacking trio Pandev-Pazzini-Eto’o.
After 4 minutes Inter had two attempts on goal, the first from Pazzini who didn’t really get hold of the ball and then Sneijder, but his chance was wasted. The Dutchman tried again a minute later, after Pandev’s deep cross, but his shot on the turn didn’t cause problems for Rosati. In the 17th minute, Lecce showed they could be dangerous, penetrating the area with Brivio and Corvia whose left-footed shot on the turn went just wide.
Sneijder is always dangerous when it comes to free-kicks and this was no exception. In the 20th minute his curling right-footed shot was just wide. Then Chivu made a superb challenge on Bertolacci at the edge of the penalty area in the 33rd minute and Maicon blocked the Lecce midfielder’s left-footed effort in the 36th.
Two minutes later, the teams went in for the interval with the score at 0-0. There was a lot of action but few shots on target. The first half of Inter v Lecce was well-balanced, but the team from Puglia showed that they were not afraid to attack.
During the break, the Nerazzurra Under-19 team who won the 2011 Viareggio tournament did a lap of the pitch with the trophy and the champions of the future received a long, heartfelt ovation from the stands.
SECOND HALF –
The second half got underway and after just 2 minutes Lucio received a booking for handball which means he will be disqualified for the derby against AC MIlan. In the 51st minute Rosati’s marvellous save denied Inter the lead as Sneijder crossed and found Pazzini’s head.
Pazzo came close but the goal arrived a minute later: an assist from Pandev, Pazzini trapped the ball on his chest and, although he was being challenged by Vives, beat Rosati, placing the ball right-footed into the corner of the net. Rosati was then booked for protesting about a hypothetical handball on the part of the Nerazzurri striker, in the lead-up to the goal.
In the 73rd minute, Pandev came off for Coutinho. And while captain Zanetti raced down the wing like a 20-year-old, in spite of the constant pressure from Tomovic, who was later booked by referee Orsato, Inter tried to break down the Lecce wall with constant attacks, including attempts from Cambiasso first and then Coutinho (on 80 minutes). Chivu’s nasty foul on Bertolacci, earned Lecce a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area, which Olivera duly wasted, blasting against the wall on 81 minutes. In the 84th, Julio Cesar’s great save from Bertolacci’s close range shot following Olivera’s cross almost counted as another goal for Inter.
After 3 minutes of added time, Orsato blew his whistle to end the match: Inter didn’t waste the opportunity after AC Milan had lost to Palermo in yesterday’s evening kick-off and move up to 60 points, just two behind the Rossoneri. Eyes now will be turning towards Saturday 2 April, when Rossoneri and Nerazzurri face each other at the Stadio Meazza.
INTER 1-0 LECCE
Scorers: Pazzini 52
Shortly before this afternoon’s match between Inter and Lecce kicked off, in the ex-Sala Boccali within the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, president Massimo Moratti and chief executive Ernesto Paolillo met Fulvio Pea, his coaching staff and Inter’s Primavera squad, who recently won the 2011 edition of the Coppa Carnevale-Torneo di Viareggio.
“I’m extremely proud of you all,” said the president speaking to the Under-19 players and coaching staff. “It wasn’t easy to achieve what you did, considering the number of games you had to play one after another in different competitions. Many of you may well represent the future of Inter, so I hope you will all continue to give the best of yourselves. You deserve to receive the applause of the whole stadium.”
After thematch he had this to say “We’ve never had such positive second half of the season as this. We are still behind and we mustn’t get carried away, but we can say that up to now we have done what we were supposed to do,” said president Massimo Moratti to Inter Channel about Inter’s progress in the league since the beginning of the season. He continued: “Since the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi, the team has changed, as regards play and results and this is what I am most interested in. Now we must go on as we are and see how far we get.”
The derby is coming up now and it will be treated like any other game: “We’ll take each game as it comes. I can say, however, that I am very pleased for all the players and for Leonardo, who has fitted in perfectly at the club. He has brought just what I wanted, a great spirit. I’m already satisfied now but, as a fan, and like all fans, I’m hoping for something more.”
Inter have really given their fans something to shout about this year: “Incredible emotions to experience and to remember. We must be prudent though, as must the players, continuing to work in this spirit of humility. The team are happy they have done what they had to do, that’s the main thing, and now we’ll try with professionalism and with our hearts to go on doing what we have to. If we manage it, it’ll be wonderful.”
The Nerazzurri president ended by speaking about the incredible rise and rise of Samuel Eto’o: “He’s an exceptional professional. Inter have rarely had a centre-forward who could provide us with the type of joy he does match after match. I think we should be grateful to him for his professionalism, his personality and his spirit of sacrifice, which maybe you don’t expect in a man like that. And it’s wonderful for his team-mates, too. The swap with Ibrahimovic was… fortunate for us.” Moratti also had some words of praise for Cristian Chivu: “I really wanted to compliment him on how well he played today.”
“I am a bit tired, I admit…” began a smiling Leonardo as he commented on the win over Lecce. “It was a tough game, against a very compact side that are capable of defending well and hitting quickly on the break. We did struggle a little to open up space and if we hadn’t played with intelligence we wouldn’t have won this match. But this team know what they are doing: there were very few gaps out there today and that’s why we needed to play intelligently and patiently – the players did really well again today.”
Thoughts naturally turn straight to the derby on 2 April, though there is the international break before then, and lots of Nerazzurri players will go away with their national sides: “The derby won’t decide things in the league,” Leonardo immediately pointed out, “because there will still be 21 points to play for. Football is perfect because of its imperfections. We try to control everything but we can’t and that’s the beauty of football. Today I can say that we’re where we wanted to be and the derby won’t be decisive, even if we win, because we’ll only have a one-point lead. Let’s not forget that Napoli and Udinese have been on great runs for a long time.
“Lots of our players will go away on international duty and selfishly you do worry a bit, although I’m the first to recognise how important your national team is. However, I also know that my players are good at recognising their limits. Ranocchia? He needs to recover and we’ll have to see how Motta is too – he felt some pain in his knee.”
Leonardo was then asked if a win in the derby would have a particularly sweet taste to it, because it would prove Rossoneri owner Silvio Berlusconi wrong. “I don’t bear any grudges,” the coach replied, “and I always look forward. We learn something from everything but I always look forward. I don’t forget anything, it’s still all inside me, but in a positive sense.”
Speaking to Sky Sport Italia, Julio Cesar commented on the victory that takes the Nerazzurri to within 2 points of league leaders AC Milan: “This was certainly a match that rates 10/10 on the scale of importance. We did what we had to do and we’re satisfied. It was an important match against an opponent that put every man behind the ball. We also had to risk a bit, but in the end it all turned out as it was supposed to. Congratulations to my team-mates and the fans who gave me a warm welcome during the pre-match warm-up. The save from Bertolacci? That’s the life of a goalkeeper: one day you make a mistake, the next day you save the game. Now I’m thinking of the national team and the derby with confidence. AC Milan are a great team and the derby is a special game, but it won’t be decisive because there will still be lots of games left. At any rate, it could certainly be a big step towards the title.”
“Getting the win was the most important thing because we had a big chance today. We were up against a Lecce side that played very well and were very compact. Then Pazzini got the goal which gave us the deserved win.” That was Javier Zanetti speaking to Inter Channel about today’s win over Lecce, which took the Nerazzurri to within two points of leaders AC Milan.
“From now on, it depends entirely on us,” the captain reflected. “And it’s we wanted: to close the gap between us and first place. Now we have three crucial games ahead of us and a derby with a lot riding on it. But we know what we’re capable of. I’ll join up with Argentina now, and then I’ll put everything I have into preparing for Milan in the best possible way – a game that promises to be one of the most exciting I’ve been involved in after the two-legged semi-final in the Champions League. Who are the favourites? Milan are because they’re ahead of us, but you can’t predict anything in a derby.”
Giampaolo Pazzini and Lecce. A striker up against the team that has so far provided him with his easiest pickings: he has netted more goals against Lecce than any against any other side: 7 out of 101 total, before the one that beat goalkeeper Rosati to give a very important victory to Inter. The Nerazzurri forward stated to Inter Channel, “Yes, they pointed out to me that Lecce is one of my favourite targets. Today it was important to win, the stadium was full and the air was tense. We’ve worked so hard to get here, and now we’ve done it.”
It was a decisive goal that sparked the protests of Lecce players for a presumed touch with his arm in the build-up: “I think the movement of my arm was a bit deceiving, but from the replay you see that I trapped it with my shoulder. I wasn’t even aware of it. I realized when I saw the protesting.”
A decisive attacker, here are his secrets: “I have my qualities. It’s clear that not being very tall and not having an imposing physique, I have to do something else. First off, I try to make myself available to the team and I’m happy when I can finish the work of the group.”
Pazzini continued to talk about the tough time that Sampdoria are going through: “I hadn’t expected it and I’m sorry for them. I could have imagined a bit of a struggle after Cassano and I left. But I really hope they pull through and remain in Serie A.”
Finally, a comment on what he expects for his first Milan derby: “I’ve been waiting for so long. It’s a huge match and we’re looking forward to it. But today we’re enjoying this comeback. It’s the first thing I heard when I arrived, and it’s what all my team-mates want. We’re not giving up now and we’ll fight to the end. How excited am I for the derby? I’m trying to stay as calm as possible, even if the preparation during the week is really difficult. Will I be physically fresher for not having played in the Champions League? Certainly, but if I had any say I’d be a bit more tired myself…”
So that’s it for Nerazzurri games for two weeks with the players away on international duty then on Saturday 2nd April it’s time for the all important Milan Derby which could put Inter back in their rightful place but we mustn’t think winning this game will secure the Scudetto as there’s still plenty of games left to defend the title.
Well here we are again ready for another Serie A game, Inter’s week 30 game is at home to Lecce. It’s been a fantastic week for us with our magnificent comeback champions league win against Bayern Munich and Milan’s loss against Palermo will cut their lead down to 2 points if we keep our heads and get the win today. The Derby will turn out to be one of the most important games of the season after all, and to put the cherry on top Milan will be without Ibra & Pato for that game! But for now we’ve got our game with Lecce to deal with then it’s the International break before the derby.
20 man squad
Leonardo has named 20 players in his match-day squad for the Serie A 2010/11 Week 30 fixture against Lecce, which will be played at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza (15:00 kick-off).
1 Julio Cesar, 12 Luca Castellazzi, 21 Paolo Orlandoni;
4 Javier Zanetti, 6 Lucio, 13 Maicon, 23 Marco Materazzi, 26 Cristian Chivu, 55 Yuto Nagatomo;
5 Dejan Stankovic, 8 Thiago Motta, 10 Wesley Sneijder, 14 Houssine Kharja, 17 MacDonald Mariga, 19 Esteban Cambiasso, 20 Joel Obi, 29 Philippe Coutinho;
7 Giampaolo Pazzini, 9 Samuel Eto’o, 27 Goran Pandev.
There’s no real surprises in the squad this week so my prediction on the formation and line up is a 4-3-1-2 with Cesar, Maicon, Lucio, Materazzi, Nagatomo, Cambiasso, Kharja, Zanetti, Sneijder, Eto’o, Pazzini
“I think optimism breeds more optimism and victories breed more victories. Inter are aware of the fact they are in a decisive stage of the season. Lecce have been improving game on game and although they will be without Chevanton and Di Michele tomorrow that doesn’t mean they will change their usual open game. We don’t expect it to be an easy match at all.” On the eve of Inter’s Week 30 match at home to Lecce, Leonardo describes how things stand in the Nerazzurri camp between the fantastic Champions League win over Bayern Munich and tomorrow’s league fixture.
The Nerazzurri go into the game high on the euphoria gained at the Allianz Arena after achieving an important target. Could too much euphoria be a bad thing? “I don’t think it’s a problem. It would have been strange if we hadn’t enjoyed the moment a bit after an amazing win like that. But I think Inter are a very experienced team whose best characteristic is their concentration and ability to understand the moment and what needs to be done. Finding a balance between euphoria and concentration, that’s the key.”
The subject then turns to Milito, who was once more left out of the match-day squad: “Diego has to complete his rehabilitation programme. We’re not rushing him, though he has responded very well. He trained with us in Munich but he’s having a sort of pre-season preparation and he is still two weeks away from completing it. It’s best for him to finish his programme.”
Leonardo was asked how he intends to deal with the fact that players like Eto’o, Pazzini, Lucio and Nagatomo are one booking away from suspension and risk missing the derby. “It’s true that these players are close to a suspension but they were also close when I arrived so I don’t see it as something that should be given special consideration, also because we’re already missing players.” One of those is Andrea Ranocchia: “He won’t be involved,” explained the Nerazzurri coach, “because he’s not fit enough to play. He’s played too many games and done more than he should have in his condition; his knee problem is not serious but he won’t be playing tomorrow.”
The Nyon draw was inevitably another topic on the agenda: “I don’t think there is such a thing as an easy Champions League quarter-final,” stated Leonardo. “Schalke are high on enthusiasm too and are a team that have been built through long-term investments over a number of years. It’s not about being lucky or unlucky. We have to study the side we’ve been drawn against: they’ve done very well in the Bundesliga and have gone far in the Champions League; they have a fantastic goalkeeper and two fantastic players in Raul and Farfan. But we’re talking about Raul when we should be thinking about Corvia…”
When asked for his view on what Josè Mourinho reportedly said about Inter having a clear path to Wembley after drawing Schalke, Leonardo retorted: “I don’t think Mourinho worded it exactly like that because he is a football man and he knows how difficult games can be. We are optimistic based on our own strength, not because of who we will play.” Leonardo then quickly brought things back to the present: “But, I repeat, today I only want to talk about Lecce because I hope this game will be further confirmation that we’re on track, against a side that go out to play football and who will be coming to the San Siro with enthusiasm.”
The coach was also asked about the fact that the derby comes at the end of an international break in which 16 Nerazzurri players will leave to join up with their respective national teams (“not an easy situation and something that will need to be handled wisely”),
Walter Samuel’s fitness (“I hope we might see him back in the side before the end of the season”) and Samuel Eto’o (“I’m not saying this just to motivate him, because he gets himself motivated, but without a shadow of doubt he is one of the best players in the world; just look at what he as done since 2005”).
This game should really be one of the easiest of the season but I think Inter will take it fairly easy so I’m going to go for a 2-0 win for us though if we were going all out for the win I reckon a 5-0 is entirely possible for the Nerazzuri
Asked if he thought the win over Bayern Munich had renewed Inter’s belief in their ability to win the Champions League again, Figo replied: “I think the team have shown they have plenty of hunger and ambition left after going through a difficult period. It’s confirmation of the quality of the players and the coach, and of how determined we are to go all the way in this year’s competition.”
President Moratti and José Mourinho both hoped that Inter and Real Madrid wouldn’t be paired at this stage. “From a sentimental point of view I’d agree that playing Real at the moment wouldn’t have been the best thing, but I’ve always said that if you want to win this competition you have to go out on the pitch ready to beat anyone. If we could choose, it would be better of course, but you can’t so Inter always have to go out there with a winning mentality.”
Inter will play the first leg at the Meazza, just like last year: “At least we have some experience of playing at home first, although I would always prefer to play the return leg at our own ground. In any case, fortunately we’ve always done well so I don’t think we’ll have any problems concentrating.” Finally, another comment on Schalke: “They’re a good team who have had their ups and downs this year, but they still have players who can be decisive.”
“Happy? No, but maybe a little bit more relaxed. We’ll only be really happy after we’ve beaten Schalke 04 over two legs. Naturally we are a little less worried because certain more dangerous teams, at least on paper, have been avoided for now.” Inter chief executive Ernesto Paolillo was speaking to Sky Sport Italia about the outcome of the draw in Nyon. Yet he was also keen to point out that “We mustn’t be too relaxed; we have to be very careful because games like these, which might seem easier on paper, have lots of hidden pitfalls. You have to remember that all the sides that have come this far are very good.”
After the win over Bayern Munich, Inter seem to have acquired the self-belief necessary to win the Champions League again this year. “We can feel the weight, albeit a positive one, of being the reigning European champions but naturally we want to go as far as we can and all the way if possible. We were apprehensive about the Bayern match, regardless of the first-leg result, because as the holders you feel you should at least reach the quarter-finals. Bayern was a tough hurdle but we’re over it now. And every further hurdle we clear will spur us on even more.”
The Nerazzurri chief executive later spoke to Inter Channel over the phone: “We mustn’t underestimate Schalke. We always think that avoiding Barcelona or Real Madrid means avoiding problems but it’s not like that. When you relax, unexpected factors come into play. We certainly feel Schalke are beatable but that doesn’t mean it will be simple. The semi-final? Whether it’s Chelsea or Manchester United, we’ll have to go and play at a very difficult ground.”
“We have to show respect for Schalke because it will be a tough game like all the others. We must be careful because nobody reaches the quarter-finals through luck.” Javier Zanetti fired out a warning and called on everyone to maintain maximum concentration when he was interviewed by Inter Channel about the Champions League draw in Nyon today.
Inter faced Schalke 04 in the two-legged 1996/97 UEFA Cup final, which they lost on penalties: “I can look back on it with a smile today. Unfortunately we lost that final but now we have a great chance to get our revenge and reach the semi-finals.”
Reaching the semi-finals would mean a trip to England: “Let’s first concentrate on getting through the quarter-finals. It’s a huge fixture for us and we really want to go all the way.”
The hero of that night in Munich, Goran Pandev, whose goal put Inter into today’s draw for the quarter- and semi-finals, gave his view of the outcome: “We must only think about Schalke. It will be a difficult game because in the quarter-finals you only get good teams, but we’ll give it everything we’ve got.”
Lots of observers have said that going on in the Champions League could harm Inter’s chances of overtaking AC Milan in the Serie A race, but Pandev doesn’t agree: “Last year’s experience teaches us that we you can’t treat anyone as an ‘easier’ teams. First we’ll concentrate on Lecce and then we’ll think about the Champions. We know Schalke won’t be rolled over easily, and it’s a very tough ground to go to.”
Upon leaving his offices this afternoon journalists questioned the Inter president on the Champions league draw and other topics…
Was this the most favourable draw you could have hoped for?
“In football you only find out if there was something favourable after you’ve played the game. It’s good that we don’t have to tackle a bigger, more in-form side straightaway, but Schalke have a good tradition and they are another German team so they’re never going to lie down for us. We absolutely must not underestimate this fixture; we would get it all wrong if we did.”
Do you still believe in the treble dream, perhaps completed after beating José Mourinho’s Real Madrid in the final?
“If we win the treble so be it; if we don’t, it will mean that we did everything possible to achieve it. It’s not easy though. If you look back at last year we won the treble in our last three games – three finals – so we’ll have to be ready physically too.”
Would you say Barcelona are the best team around at the moment?
“Barcelona look very strong every year but we managed to beat them so they can lose too.”
What memories do you have of Schalke, of that two-legged UEFA Cup final and West’s goal?
“I remember that we should have won that final, but then things went the way they did and we were unlucky on penalties. So if we want to consider our next meeting as a sort of revenge match, let’s do that.”
Does the fact that you will play Schalke three days before the derby make things a bit easier for the AC Milan game, also knowing that you won’t have to take on a massive team three days after you play Milan?
“These players are used to playing difficult games one after another, so I don’t think they are really conditioned by that sort of thing. They know they will have to give everything in both fixtures, without saving themselves in one or the other.”
How do you see the derby against AC Milan going?
“At the moment we’re talking about Schalke; there’s time for the derby.”
How much would you really like to meet José Mourinho and Real Madrid in the final?
“I wouldn’t mind reaching the final and if Mourinho is there too, then great.”
Isn’t there a risk that you may be hampered a bit in the league having to worry about the Champions League as well?
“We’ll try not to let that happen and do well in all three competitions.”
Did you see what Mario Balotelli got up to in the Europa League match between Manchester City and Dynamo Kyiv?
“No, I didn’t see it and I’m not going to judge him, also because I’m sorry about it.”
Would you bring Andrea Pirlo back to Inter?
“Lots of years have passed since then but he’s still a great player – everyone knows that.”
So it appears to be unanimous with everyone at Inter that we got a very lucky draw but even so it won’t be easy progressing to the semis and it’s only going to get harder as no matter who we get in the semis or the final it’s going to be a very strong team and Inter need to be right on their best game for the rest of the season and who knows in a couple of months time we may yet again be celebrating a treble!
|Real Madrid (Spain)||v||Tottenham Hotspur (England)|
|Chelsea (England)||v||Manchester United (England)|
|Barcelona (Spain)||v||Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine)|
|Inter Milan (Italy)||v||Schalke 04 (Germany)|
Inter Milan or Schalke v Chelsea or Manchester United
Real Madrid or Tottenham Hotspur against Barcelona v Shakhtar Donetsk
Real Madrid v Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham have been fantastic in Europe this season but i really can’t see them having what it takes to beat Mourinho & Real Madrid, that said though i think they will make the Spaniards work for the victory with the final score after both legs being 3-2
Chelsea v Manchester UnitedThis one will be a tricky one to call as both teams haven’t had the best form this season but both are capable of scoring at any point in a game. I think Utd will edge this one with a final score after both legs of 2-2 with Utd taking the away goal rule.
Barcelona v Shakhtar DonetskThis is an easy one to predict and i’m going to go for a Barcelona inspired bloodbath with the final score being 5-0
First the gala dinner, then Andrea Bocelli’s performance on stage, and afterwards a series of auctions, hosted by Paolo Bonolis, of collectors’ items: from Usain Bolt’s shoes to the shirt worn by Eto’o in last season’s Champions League final and the one worn by Marco Materazzi at the 2006 World Cup, to the ball signed by all the Inter players, who were in attendance at the event held in Milan this evening.
“My foundation is my life,” explained Eto’o. “My continent, Africa, is different. It hasn’t had the same fortune as others. Unlike other kids I’ve been fortunate enough to become a footballer. Football has given me everything and I feel I have to do something to help others.”
After two years in Italy, the Cameroonian has realised it is the gateway to Europe from Africa. “I understand how desperate these people who emigrate are, and I must say thank you to Italy because it has held out its hands to help,” he continued. “And I know it is difficult, with the current economic crisis, to accept others who are seeking a better future.
Then, looking ahead to tomorrow’s Champions League draw in Nyon, Lucio declared that “We are the best team but we still have to keep working, as we did against Bayern Munich, fighting and believing in ourselves. After the draw we’ll start getting ready to face our opponents, but we can’t say it would be better or worse to end up with Real Madrid, Barcelona or any other side.”
On his official website Matrix had this to say on comments made by Bayern Munich’s Bastian Schweinsteiger….
“Inter crazy? Maybe, but if this is what crazy is then I think it’s fantastic to be Inter – a team that’s capable of pulling off feats like that and being involved in such intense, vibrant matches, just how I like them.
Crazy only up to a certain point, mind: all you have to do is watch the second half again to see that, beyond our unpredictability, first and foremost we had the intelligence and patience to read the game well and wait for the right moment to strike Bayern: not too soon, but not too late. And it was great that Goran Pandev was the one to score the decisive goal, someone who had too often, before yesterday, lost his personal battle with luck.
Yesterday’s victory was crucial from a psychological standpoint, for him and for us all, but there’s no stopping now: on Sunday we’ve got Lecce. The Serie A, not just the Champions League, is there waiting for us.
“I have just a few words for Schweinsteiger, who felt he had to come up with something original and accuse me of provoking. It’s a shame he’d been sounding off for the last two weeks, saying that yesterday evening would be revenge for Madrid; that he was curious to see if we would play like Italians; that he only knows the faces of the AC Milan players. Well, I reckon he knows our faces as well now. And I’m supposed to have been the one doing the stirring – unless he’s referring to the moment when I reminded him that it’s better to wait until you’ve actually won before opening your mouth…”
Inter are through to the Champions league quarter finals on away goals after a 3-3 Agg win against Bayern Munich. All I can say about this match that ended 2-3 on the night, is what a game!!! Eto’o opened the scoring for Inter but by half time we were 2-1 down and it was looking like our title defense was in tatters, but Inter being Inter they picked themselves up and came out fighting, Sneijder scoring a low long range effort the Pandev secured the win with a late goal assisted by Eto’o. Inter thus qualify for the quarter-finals after completing a European comeback for the first time since 1993 – an impossible comeback, they said. But with Inter anything is possible.With this win we are one step closer to repeating the back to back European titles of the 60’s and maybe even an unprecidented back to back treble!
FIRST HALF –
Both sides took to the field with a black armband as a sign of respect towards the earthquake victims in Japan, and a huge banner was displayed (“We’re with you Japan”) during the minute’s silence at the beginning of the game.
Bayern’s response came in the form of a Ribery cross finding Gomez yards from goal on 10 minutes, but Ranocchia slid in to make the crucial block just as Gomez pulled the trigger. Inter were still blazing and launching attacks through Eto’o and Sneijder, as in the first leg, a mistake by Julio Cesar brought the Nerazzurri crashing back down to earth: Robben’s long-range blast was fumbled by the Inter keeper and up popped Mario Gomez – again! – to score by lobbing Julio Cesar with his back to goal and make it 1-1. The goal sparked Van Gaal’s side into life and just ten minutes later they had turned the score around: Robben played in a pass looking for Gomez, Thiago Motta got a touch on the ball on the edge of the box but it slipped away from him allowing Muller to run onto it and deftly chip over Julio Cesar: 2-1. In the 35th minute, Julio Cesar came to Inter’s rescue with a superb save from Ribery, pushing the ball just over the bar. On 39 minutes, following Thiago Motta’s freekick, Stankovic was presented with a great chance to equalise but he delayed a fraction too long and Kraft was onto it. A minute later and a quite miraculous goal-line clearance by Ranocchia kept Inter in the game: Ribery’s ball into the box was for Gomez, who slid in and beat Julio Cesar, but the ball bounced along the line for what seemed like an eternity before Ranocchia hacked clear – via Muller’s foot and then the post – into Julio Cesar’s hands. To an almighty sigh of relief from all Inter fans. They were holding their breaths again minutes later when Lucio got himself into a fix trying to clear under pressure from two opponents but the danger was eventually cleared and after one minute of stoppage time the two sides went in for the break.
Then, with more decisiveness, the “Lion King” fed Sneijder, whose magnificent right-footed shot beat Kraft to bring the score to 2-2. Hopes were further reignited when Pandev nearly put Inter ahead in the 67th minute as he chest-trapped Sneijder’s long pass, but the ensuing shot on the turn sailed just over the crossbar. Sneijder came close on 80 minutes after a pass from Eto’o, but his powerful right-footer from outside the box was saved.
Hope never died and in the 88th minute Pandev sent the Nerazzurri fans around the world into rapture by connecting with a pass from Eto’o and blasting the ball into the top corner with a left-footed strike. The Macedonian triggered a Nerazzurri explosion of joy inside the Allianz Arena with his goal that sent Inter to the quarter-finals and closed the game with a 2-3 score line. Only once in the history of the Champions League had a team overcome a first-leg loss at home.
“Explaining this match tonight is going to be very difficult,” continued the Nerazzurri coach. “We won and it was a victory with all of our hearts. A very well-organized match: we found the back of the net after three minutes, but various incidents led to a lot of problems in which everything went Bayern’s way. We lost our equilibrium, we tried to take control of the game again, then we let in another goal. We settled down and then, as I said, it was all heart. And Pandev, what can I say? I’m thrilled for him because he’s been going through a difficult period.”
“It was a strange game. It had moments that were completely different from one to the next, first manageable, then dangerous. In the second half we controlled the game well once again and then, when the team felt sure of themselves again, they sealed the win. Julio Cesar? When a goalkeeper makes an error like that it’s an accident. You can’t ever judge him because he then goes on to make incredible saves, just as he did tonight. Pandev wasn’t in the game tonight, but the god of football is strange… Good for him, though, because otherwise it would have been a disaster [smiling]. The team has personality, character and is very united; even when things go wrong this team knows how to turn it around. In the quarters we’ll get Barcelona – again [smiling]. Does Leonardo deserve a ten for this game? I think so, also because during the game it was truly tough from a psychological standpoint and he was fantastic.”
Speaking to Sky Sport Italia, Julio Cesar analysed the game and his mistake on Bayern’s first goal: “That was a terrible moment. When I let that in I just wanted to disappear immediately, go back to Milan – on foot, on horseback, whatever – but then I pulled myself together. The goal was like a cold shower, but thanks to my team-mates we got back into it. I really must congratulate them. Still, you learn from your mistakes. I messed up tonight, more than in the first leg for sure, but fortunately we’re here now talking about our victory. Afterwards I rolled my sleeves up and got on with it. Which save was the most difficult? Maybe the one from Ribery. What did I do when Pandev scored? I started to cry, I thanked God and my team-mates. I would have been in a really bad way if we’d lost, but these are things that help you become more mature. Let’s hope that’s the end of the mistakes now.”
“We knew that it would be a tough match, but we believed it was possible and we did it. We believe in our game because we have strength and determination inside us. The teams in the quarter-finals? All of the teams that make it there are strong. Now we’re thinking of the Serie A. And I’ll say one thing: Italians should be happy tonight, because an Italian team in the quarter-finals is important for Italian football as a whole.”
Tonight’s game against Bayern Munich also included a protagonist’s role for Cristian Chivu, who gave his comments to Inter Channel on the victory that won the team a place in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League: “It was a good game, we suffered a bit, but we played as Inter should. We were aware of what we were going to face and how we could do it. We did it in the best possible way and now we can be happy and celebrate because this was the only thing we wanted.”
“It turned out all right in the end and I’m happy I was able to save that goal. I felt some incredible emotions out there tonight: to come here and turn the tie around, especially after going behind on the night as well, wasn’t easy. But we put a lot of heart into it and managed to pull it off. If we keep working like this, we have a great chance of doing well, in every competition.”