Tuesday, 24 February 2009

CL - Last 16: The Italian Job

Serie A champions Inter host Premier League winners Manchester United in a mouth-watering tie in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League while Roma and Juventus also face English opponents in Arsenal and Chelsea respectively.

The Italian JobInter have flattered to deceive in Europe for many years but under coach Jose Mourinho they will be looking to add European silverware to their recent domestic success.

The Nerazzurri will first have to negotiate past the holders with the first leg at the San Siro tonight and Mourinho promised that his team would go on the attack.

"We won't change our style of play, it will be 4-4-2 with a diamond formation in midfield and Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Adriano in attack," he said.

"I've told the players not to think about the possibility that in two weeks they'll be out of the Champions League but that in two weeks they could have beaten the champions of Europe.

"We shouldn't be afraid, we have to keep our way of playing. We are playing a great team but so are they.

"Beating Manchester wouldn't be anything special, the important thing is qualifying for the next round.

"Nothing will be decided tomorrow. I don't think Manchester will come to try to win. They'll play very defensively.

"There will be another great game at Old Trafford."

Mourinho doesn't have too many injury worries with only defender Walter Samuel unlikely to make his starting line-up after missing the weekend's 2-1 victory over Bologna with a calf injury.

With Marco Materazzi also struggling to recover in time, the heart of their backline will be selected from Ivan Cordoba, Cristian Chivu and Nicolas Burdisso.

The Anglo-Italian theme continues with Roma travelling to the Emirates Stadium to face Arsenal.

The Giallarossi will be confident of picking up a positive result in London to take back to the Stadio Olimpico in a fortnight with coach Luciano Spalletti backing his side to end their hoodoo on English soil.

"We have often lost when we have come to England but the statistics are not important," Spalletti said on the record of not winning in their last five trips to England, losing four on the trot. "We have worked to improve the team and we know it's important to win.

"With the character this team has shown on a number of occasions against this kind of opposition I feel confident that sooner or later we will win."

Spalletti may be forced into a late reshuffle after captain Francesco Totti and right-back Cicinho both failed to complete training sessions last night, while Mirko Vucinic has been struggling to be ready in time.

Totti appeared to be carrying a groin complaint, while Cicinho has been struggling with a knee injury, but both can expect to be given until the last moment to prove their fitness.

The capital club, who won a group that included Chelsea, are already without Juan, Marco Cassetti and Jeremy Menez for the matches.

On Wednesday night, Claudio Ranieri will take his Juventus side to Stamford Bridge and former club Chelsea.

Juve, who's form in Serie A has dipped recently, topped their qualifying group, beating Spanish champions Real Madrid both home and away.

UEFA Champions League 2008-09
Last 16 First Leg
Tuesday 24 February
Arsenal v Roma (1945)
Atletico Madrid v Porto (1945)
Inter v Manchester United (1945)
Lyon v Barcelona (1945)
Wednesday 25 February
Chelsea v Juventus (1945)
Real Madrid v Liverpool (1945)
Sporting Lisbon v Bayern Munich (1945)
Villarreal v Panathinaikos (1945)

Source: Reuters

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