First Knockout Round
Internazionale coach Roberto Mancini, whose side lead Serie A by 14 points, was in pragmatic mode ahead of tonight’s Champions League clash with Valencia.
“We might win Serie A with weeks to spare but that doesn’t matter,” he said. “What matters is winning it.
“The same applies to the Champions League. It’s probably the most alluring and exciting tournament there is, but even if you’re the best team, you can get knocked out in an instant.
“Serie A is going well but the Champions League is another matter entirely. The key is to qualify for the next round and there are lots of ways that can be achieved. Our philosophy is to do whatever it takes to qualify.”
Olivier Dacourt is expected to come into midfield to replace Patrick Vieira who is ruled out after aggravating an injury in training. Valencia, meanwhile, will be without Asier del Horno, Ruben Baraja and Vicente Rodriguez, and goalkeeper Santiago Canizares is a doubt with the virus that forced him to sit out the win over Barcelona at the weekend.
“Valencia will be buoyed by their victory against Barcelona,” continued Mancini. “It always gives a team confidence when they beat a big side and, to be honest, I wasn’t surprised. They are a solid side without any discernible weakness.
“They have mobile forwards and they can kill you if you give them any space, but you cannot focus on any one player because, if you try to block out Angulo or David Silva, then Villa or Fernando Morientes will hurt you instead.”
Meanwhile, Valencia coach Quique Sánchez Flores lamented the loss of so many first-team regulars and admitted envying Inter’s strength in depth.
“They will miss Vieira but we have six internationals out,” he said.
“They have quality cover for every position but we should have players back for the return and that’s where this will be decided. We began this adventure with great hope and we are still highly motivated for this competition – it means a lot to us.
“Inter are an imposing side but we will try to defend well and overcome their physical presence with our own technical strengths. It won’t be decided in the first leg – the key is not to lose the first and try to win the second.”
Julio Cesar; Maicon, Marco Materazzi, Ivan Cordoba, Nicolas Burdisso; Javier Zanetti, Olivier Dacourt, Esteban Cambiasso; Dejan Stankovic; Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Adriano.
Santiago Canizares; Luis Miguel, Raul Albiol, Roberto Ayala, Emiliano Moretti; Miguel Angel Angulo, Carlos Marchena, David Albelda, David Silva; David Villa, Fernando Morientes.