Paulo Bento’s Sporting are in a confident frame of mnind as they look forward to their first Champions League fixture in six years.
Joint-top of the Portuguese Liga after successive victories, the club face a far tougher test with the arrival in Lisbon of Internazionale.
“Inter have a fabulous team and we have to be patient, balanced and humble in our approach,” Bento said.
“We must take the game to them, but there will be periods when they are on top. We must not lose our self-control at those times and will then need to reassert ourselves.”
Roberto Mancini’s Inter squad contains vast experience with World Cup finalists (Patrick Vieira, Fabio Grosso and Marco Materazzi) plus extensive Champions League pedigree (Olivier Dacourt, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Hernan Crespo). Apart from Materazzi, all those players signed for Inter this summer – an indication of the level of ambition that has always characterised the club.
Inter, who will be without Esteban Cambiasso plus Julio Cruz, Alvaro Recoba and Nicolas Burdisso through injury, have never won a competitive match in Portugal. However, according to veteran midfielder Luis Figo, that could change tonight.
“This match will be completely different from the friendly because it is vital to start well in the Champions League and our aim is to win it this season,” said Figo.
“Coming back to this stadium and to my first big club is very emotional for me. But I am an Inter man now and I will play to win. Perhaps we have made some early season defensive errors in Italy but we will correct that.”
Inter coach Mancini added that he would make late decisions on two of his World Cup winning defenders.
“Marco Materazzi is getting closer to fitness but I won’t decide until the matchday and he won’t play unless 100 per cent fit. The same goes for Fabio Grosso who was tired after the Fiorentina game.
“However, what is more important than who plays or what strategy I use, will be whether my team show a winning spirit.”
Ricardo; Miguel Garcia, Anderson Polga, Tonel, Marco Caneira; João Moutinho, Miguel Veloso, Nani; Leandro Romagnoli; Liedson, Carlos Bueno.
Francesco Toldo; Javier Zanetti, Iván Córdoba, Walter Samuel, Fabio Grosso; Patrick Vieira, Olivier Dacourt, Dejan Stankovic; Luís Figo; Adriano, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.