ROME - Inter Milan coach Leonardo will get
the chance to test his theory that his injury-ravaged side do
not need wholesale changes when they take on giantkillers
Palermo in the Italian Cup Final on Sunday.
The 41-year-old Brazilian, who has had to make do without a
number of key players since taking over from Rafa Benitez in
December, is confident his talented squad are capable of winning
major trophies even though they recently relinquished their hold
on the Serie A and Champions League titles.
"This team has achieved something huge this season,"
Leonardo told reporters. "We've been heavily penalised through a
series of injuries but the team has shown great spirit. We
struggled in the semi-final to overcome Roma but the final of
the Coppa Italia will be a celebration.
"We don't need to bring in replacements (for next season).
We just need to touch up a few areas to be competitive on all
fronts but the nucleus of the team is already there and we won't
interfere with that spirit."
The six-times Italian Cup champions lost centre-back Walter
Samuel for virtually the whole season and fellow Argentine Diego
Milito has struggled for fitness since scoring both goals in
last season's Champions League Final win over Bayern Munich.
To add to their woes, goalkeeper Julio Cesar, defender Lucio
and midfielders Wesley Sneijder and Esteban Cambiasso are all
doubtful for the final with injuries while right-back Maicon is
While holders Inter have one last chance to salvage their
disappointing season, Palermo have been on a rollercoaster ride
thanks to eccentric president Maurizio Zamparini's actions which
led to a coaching merry-go-round.
Delio Rossi was unceremoniously sacked following a 7-0
hammering by Udinese in February despite Palermo lying just
outside the Europa League places.
Zamparini appointed Serse Cosmi as his replacement but just
five weeks later Rossi was reinstated as coach and Palermo went
on to beat AC Milan to reach the Italian Cup final.
"We know we are up against the world champions but if we can
play at our full potential we can beat any team. The players
really want to bring home the cup for our fans," Rossi told
However, after a brief honeymoon following his reinstatement
more troubles are brewing between coach and president over the
signing of a new contract.
According to reports in Italy, Genoa have approached Rossi,
while Zamparini has talked about Bortolo Mutti, Edy Reja, Gian
Piero Gasperini and Gigi Simoni taking over.
"Right now it makes no sense whatsoever to mention the names
of other coaches," said Rossi. "It's just a waste of energy. The
president knows what I think. Whatever I have to say I, unlike
him, tell it to his face."
Zamparini tried to clarify the situation by saying: "There's
a 60 to 70 percent chance of Delio Rossi staying. It won't
depend on the result but we'll make the decision after the final
so it doesn't affect the players. We have a plan A and a plan
Centre-back Cesare Bovo and midfielder Armin Bacinovic are
both suspended but left-back Federico Balzaretti is expected to
recover from injury.
The final could be the last time Palermo's two forwards -
captain Fabrizio Miccoli and Argentine Javier Pastore - turn
out in the team's pink-and-black colours.
While media reports linked Pastore with a possible move to
Inter, Zamparini tried to stamp out the rumours in his own
"So (Inter president Massimo) Moratti likes Pastore... so
does my grandmother and cousin. Sure, 30 million euros would be
enough but only for his right foot," Zamparini said.
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