MILAN - Embattled Inter Milan coach Rafael
Benitez can count his fit first choice players on one hand for
Wednesday's Champions League encounter with Twente Enschede and
is desperate for a turnaround in fortunes.
Of the team who lifted the trophy in Madrid in May, only
Samuel Eto'o, Wesley Sneijder, Javier Zanetti, Lucio and Goran
Pandev are injury-free for a game Inter want to win to secure
their passage to the last 16 and ease the pressure on Benitez.
Sunday's 2-1 loss at Chievo left the treble winners sixth in
Serie A and media reports said the Spaniard could be sacked just
six months into the job if Inter lose at the San Siro on
Wednesday and leave qualification hope out of their hands.
Club president Massimo Moratti cautiously backed the coach
on Monday despite the 3-1 reverse at Tottenham Hotspur in their
last Group A game and two points from the last four Serie A
matches, including a derby defeat by AC Milan.
The injuries, which Benitez has denied are because of his
training regime compared to ex-boss Jose Mourinho, have offered
the coach some excuses for the poor displays but a catalogue of
managers shows Moratti's patience does not last long.
"It is a difficult moment, but we must stay calm, and little
by little we will come out of it," captain Javier Zanetti told
Inter's TV channel.
"To judge this team, you must first of all judge this group
when it is complete. It is not an alibi, but it should be
stressed. On Wednesday we absolutely must win, carrying on with
our heads held high, as always."
It is difficult to underplay the size of Inter's injury list
especially when even Pandev and Sneijder do not look totally fit
after their own problems and have recently failed to shine.
The chances of last season's top scorer Diego Milito
shrugging off his latest muscle pull in time for Wednesday look
unlikely while although Esteban Cambiasso played on Sunday, the
Argentina midfielder was clearly not ready.
Keeper Julio Cesar was meant to be close to a return before
a relapse while full-backs Maicon and Cristian Chivu have thigh
and groin strains respectively and are set to miss the game.
Coutinho is out for over a month and Walter Samuel the season.
Brazilian midfielder Thiago Motta trained with the squad on
Monday to offer some respite having featured only once this term
after knee surgery but youth team players will again almost
certainly have to be called on to the bench.
Inter are second in the group on seven points like leaders
Tottenham while Twente, who drew 2-2 at home with the holders in
September, are on five points in third with two games left as
they plot a surprise progression to the last 16.
The Dutch champions are second in their domestic league
after 15 games but lost 2-1 at home to AZ Alkmaar on Saturday.
Inter Milan: 12-Luca Castellazzi; 39-Davide Santon, 6-Lucio,
23-Marco Materazzi, 2-Ivan Cordoba; 4-Javier Zanetti, 10-Wesley
Sneijder, 5-Dejan Stankovic; 88-Jonathan Biabiany, 9-Samuel
Eto'o, 27-Goran Pandev
Twente Enschede: 13-Nikolay Mihaylov; 15-Roberto Rosales,
4-Peter Wisgerhof, 19-Douglas, 34-Thilo Leugers; 6-Wout Brama,
9-Luuk De Jong, 8-Theo Janssen; 10-Bryan Ruiz, 21-Marc Janko,
Referee: Stephane Lannoy (France)
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