Straight from the dark heart of Italy
Inter fans couldn’t get enough of Liverpool a few years ago.
They started turning up at matches in the famous red shirts and unfurled banners thanking the English side for beating AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final.
Unfortunately, the Nerazzurri are all too well aware of their side’s own brittle nature when it comes to European evenings: Valencia last season, Milan twice, are all bitter reminders of failure when it counted.
It was the same with the league until Juventus and their dirty dealings came to light and now with that monkey off their back, it’s the Champions, as it’s called here, that’s the new obsession.
It’s the club’s centenary year and for president Massimo Moratti he has set his sights on nothing less than the treble.
The league is all but won, with a 11-point lead over AS Roma and only Lazio stand in their way to an Italian Cup final.
However, Europe is another matter and for the stroll against Livorno at the weekend, Roberto Mancini started Zlatan Ibrahomovic, Julio Cruz and Marco Materazzi on the bench.
The coach was at his cantankerous best after the game when he accused anyone who would listen that his side wasn’t getting the respect they deserved.
It seems that fostering an ‘them and us’ mentality is a cunning ploy to raise the intensity levels within the camp where it has become all too easy on the home front.
Mancini wants the job done at Anfield and that means getting on the score-sheet.
The two other Italian representatives will be content to come out of the first legs with their seasons not in tatters.
Milan take their creaking limbs to young upstarts Arsenal, with a sombre mood hanging over the camp, shorn of Ronaldo.
To makes matters worse, new first-choice goalkeeper Zelkjo Kalac Nelson dislocated his finger in the goalless draw at Parma while the ever-increasingly unhinged Nelson Dida did his back in as he tried to leave the bench at half-time and had to be stretchered off.
Roma could do with some light-hearted diversion in their build-up to facing Real Madrid in the Olympic stadium.
The thunder-faced Francesco Totti slinked out of Turin after Alex Del Piero blasted Juventus to victory thus all but ending Roman title hopes and putting pressure on second place with the Old Lady just a point behind.
Christian Panucci and Alberto Aquilani then had a little spat in training over the misappropriation of the week’s supply of hair-gel.
One way or another, the incident could make or break the Romans so putting Italian honour on the line, let’s go for a 2-0 Inter win at Liverpool, Milan to draw 1-1 and Roma to run riot over Real Madrid 3-0 or failing that 0-0 will do.
Italy got the toughest of opponents. I hope but doubt that Roma can do in Madrid. The rest are tough to call, some may say inter will have a walkover but overconfidence will be Inter's bane if they go with that mentality. Keeping it tight at the back should be Inter's priority, apart from shutting Torres and Gerrard down. Same with Milan, a 4-0 defeat to ManU only means lower confidence and determination to strike back for Arsenal.
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