The next big things and the players to look for
Chelsea will be more than aware of the size of the task facing them in tonight’s Champions League last 16 clash with Italian champions Inter Milan.
Mourinho, however, has declared that knowing so much about your opponents can actually make things harder, before rightly stating that Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti, formerly of AC Milan, probably knew as much about Inter.
Jose will certainly be looking for more luck against English opposition than he got this time last year, when his side were beaten by eventual finalists Manchester United 2-0 on aggregate.
Much like during his Chelsea days, Jose Mourinho will set his side up in a 4-3-3 formation, with three forwards (in this case Pandev, Eto’o and Milito) in a fluid attack, although without quite the same width as the front line he usually deployed during his time at Stamford Bridge.
"Curses, my cufflinks appear to be snagged on one another..."
Goalkeeper Julio Cesar is now expected to play, having looked a doubt earlier in the week after injuring his face in a minor car crash in the early hours of Monday morning.
Fullbacks Christian Chivu and Davide Santon are both injured, so veteran Colombian Cordoba looks likely to fill in at leftback.
Fullbacks Maicon and Ivan Cordoba will push forward and provide width in attack, with Cambiasso dropping deep to protect the experienced centre back pairing of Lucio and Walter Samuel.
Expected Line-UpGK - Julio CesarDR - MaiconDC - LucioDC - Walter SamuelDL - Ivan CordobaCM - Esteban CambiassoCM - Wesley SneijderCM - Javier ZanettiFR - Samuel Eto'oFC - Diego MilitoFL - Goran Pandev
Three to watch out for:
Name: Lucimar Da Silva Ferreira (Lúcio)Club: InternazionaleDate of Birth: 08/05/1978Place of Birth: Brasília (Brazil)Nationality: BrazilianHeight: 188Weight: 184Position: Central defenderSquad number: 6
The imposing centre back is the current captain of Brazil and arrived at Inter following a highly successful nine year spell in Germany.
He played for Guarani FC and Internacional in his homeland, before moving to Bayer Leverkusen in January 2001 and was a key member of the Leverkusen side that famously lost the German cup and Champions League finals (the Brazilian scored Leverkusen’s goal in the 2-1 defeat to Real Madrid at Hampden Park) in the space of a week, having blown the Bundesliga title the week before.
Lucio only had to wait two months for consolation, as he won the World Cup with Brazil in Japan and South Korea. After two more trophyless years with Leverkusen, Lucio moved to Bayern Munich in 2004. He won the Bundesliga with Bayern three times (2004/05, 2005/06 and 2007/08) and the German Cup three times (2005, 2006 and 2008).
A defender who is both very comfortable on the ball and also very good in the air, Lucio also has excellent distribution and leadership abilities. He is technically gifted, physically strong, and considered to be one of the best defenders in the world.In the past he has shown a tendency to be caught out of position having sauntered up field on an attacking foray, but Jose Mourinho has helped improve this aspect of his play.
Name: Wesley SneijderClub: InternazionaleDate of Birth: 09/06/1984Place of Birth: Utrecht (Netherlands)Nationality: DutchHeight: 170Weight: 67Position: Attacking Midfielder (Left/Centre/Right)Squad number: 10
Sneijder came through the much-lauded Ajax academy system and played for the Amsterdam side’s first team between 2002 and 2007. He moved to Real Madrid in 2007 and spent two seasons at the Bernabeu before joining Inter last summer.
He won the Dutch league with Ajax in 2003-4 and the Spanish double of League and Cup with Real Madrid in 2007-8.
The Dutchman is a gifted midfield playmaker and can play centrally or in wide areas, and has two good feet. He is very dangerous from set pieces and has the ability to tee-up his team mates or score himself from a dead ball situation. He has outstanding creativity and vision, with an excellent range of passing. He is also hard-working and competitive, to compliment his technical play.
Occasionally Sneijder’s temperament is suspect. In last month’s Milan derby he received a straight red card for dissent – he’s certainly a player that can be wound up.
Name: Mario BalotelliClub: InternazionaleDate of Birth: 12/08/1990Place of Birth: Palermo (Italy)Nationality: Italian/GhanaianHeight: 189Weight: 79Position: Forward/WingerSquad number: 45
Balotelli is regarded as arguably the best young prospect in Italian football, and is a regular for Italy at under 21 level. He made his debut for Inter in the 2007/08 season and his star has been on the rise ever since. In November 2008 he scored his first Champions League goal against Anorthosis of Cyprus, making him Inter’s youngest ever scorer in the competition.
The 19 year old can play either on the flanks or through the middle, and has the deadly combination of pace and power that can cause any defence problems. He is also full of trickery and is a very powerful finisher.
He does, however, seem to have a poor temperament and has been criticised by Mourinho for a lack of effort in training. He lacks discipline and is inconsistent despite his exceptional natural ability. For this reason he probably will not start against Chelsea but he is certain to feature at some stage of the tie.
Although he is unlikely to start the match, Balotelli could be used as an impact sub towards the end of the game, and could cause grief to any tired legs in Chelsea’s defence.
With thanks to Simone Turco and all at Championship Manager
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