ROME - Inter Milan v Napoli has long been
an eagerly anticipated north against south clash in Italian football and a strong South American influence now gives the Serie
A clash an extra edge.
When the teams run out at the San Siro on Saturday for a crucial early-season contest in the race for the
scudetto, well over half the players could hail from that
Internazionale Milano, traditionally Italy's team with
strong international links, could line up with nine South
Mauro Zarate, who scored the winner in the Nerazzurri's
midweek Champions League win at CSKA Moscow, looks set to join
Uruguay's Diego Forlan and Argentina's Diego Milito in attack
after Italian Giampaolo Pazzini twisted his ankle in Russia.
The team from Naples, the city from which many Italians
emigrated to South America at the beginning of the 20th century,
is catching up fast.
Aurelio De Laurentiis, the Azzurri's film producer
president, undertook a summer spending spree in Argentina,
homeland of former Napoli great Diego Maradona, and five south
Americans could start despite the loss of Edinson 'El Matador'
Cavani through injury.
Inter's Argentine captain Javier Zanetti, who this week
celebrated a club record 757 appearances, said he would like to
remain in Milan even longer.
"I would love to stay at Inter and have other
responsibilities but it's not something I've thought too much
about," the 38-year-old Argentine told club website. "I want to dedicate all my energy to the final
years of my playing career."
Fifth from bottom after failing to win any of their opening
five matches under Gian Piero Gasperini, Inter, scudetto winners
from 2006-2010, go into Saturday's match in buoyant mood with
two wins out of two for new coach Claudio Ranieri.
"Ranieri's done very well, beyond expectations," president
Massimo Moratti told reporters of his fourth coach since Jose
Mourinho led Inter to the Champions League title 16 months ago.
"It wasn't easy but he's been able to take the squad in hand
as much on the psychological side as in tactics."
Moratti, whose side are again likely to be wihout Dutch
playmaker Wesley Sneijder due to a muscle strain, confessed to a
soft spot for the big club in Italy's impoverished south.
"We all cheered Napoli on the other night [against
Villarreal]," he said. "They are a nice team with players
desperate to succeed, but it's too early to say which one of us
is the more likely to challenge for the scudetto."
Napoli, whose title aspirations last season were dented by
away defeats to their closest challengers, are banking on a
return to form for Macedonian striker Goran Pandev, on loan from
"Unfortunately, Edy [Cavani] is out but we have to give
other players their chance to grow," De Laurentiis, whose side
lie fourth after four games, told local station Radio Marte. "I
would be pleased if Pandev is fired up to score a goal against
his former team-mates."
The impressive performances of Juan Zuniga in the right
wing-back position make the Colombian favourite to start ahead of
fit-again Christian Maggio with centre half Ignacio David
Fideleff set to replace the injured Salvatore Aronica.
Serie A's other big game of the weekend sees champions AC
Milan travel to Turin for the first heavyweight clash at the
state-of-the-art Juventus Arena.
Juventus, top of the standings alongside Udinese despite two
draws in their last two matches, have striker Fabio Quagliarella
back after being out for most of 2011 and Milan's Swedish
forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic should play after shining in the
Rossoneri's 2-0 Champions league defeat of Viktoria Plzen.
Promoted Atalanta travel to resurgent AS Roma in Saturday's
early game, while on Sunday Udinese host Bologna
and inconsistent Lazio visit fifth-placed Fiorentina.
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