Roberto Mancini is confident Inter will secure the win they need against Sporting to qualify for the knockout phase of the Champions League, but is taking nothing for granted.
Inter have recovered from successive defeats to Sporting and Bayern by recording back-to back wins against Spartak Moscow. Mancini is aware that anything other than a victory against Sporting will leave qualification being determined by the visit to Bayern in two weeks time.
“The two matches against Spartak were cup finals as well,” Mancini said. “It was essential to win them both so this game is nothing new in that respect. It is the most important fixture, though, because we have managed to get ourselves into a position where we can qualify. It’s also a game we can’t afford to get wrong – there is no margin for error.”
Mancini will have to cope without Julio Cruz who limped off injured during Sunday’s 1-0 win against Reggina.
“It’s a shame Cruz is out because he was in a great vein of form,” said Mancini. “His absence certainly means it’ll be a lot harder for us to score. But we have Hernán Crespo and Zlatan Ibrahimovi? ready and a semi-fit Adriano in reserve.”
Sporting coach Paulo Bento has plenty of worries of his own, with Liedson suspended, fellow forward Yannick Djaló is also missing with a groin strain and midfielder Custódio faces a late fitness test on a foot injury.
Better news comes with the return of goalkeeper Ricardo, who is back after sitting out the 1-0 weekend win at Marítimo.
“We need to be organised and remain calm,” said Bento. “Playing at San Siro is an incredible experience for these players and gives them extra motivation. I have no reason to think that my players will be intimidated.
“Inter are a better side than the one we played on the opening night. They are now top of their league and on a good run but we are also playing well and have come here to win. In Liedson’s absence I have no intention of changing my philosophy or my formation. We are playing to win.”
Júlio César; Maicon, Iván Córdoba, Marco Materazzi, Fabio Grosso; Javier Zanetti, Olivier Dacourt, Patrick Vieira, Dejan Stankovi?; Zlatan Ibrahimovi?, Hernán Crespo.
Ricardo; Abel, Tonel, Anderson Polga, Rodrigo Tello; Custódio, João Moutinho, Carlos Paredes; Nani; Carlos Bueno, Alecsandro.