Inter take on Rosenborg tonight in the most open of this season’s groups, aware that anything other than a win and they could be facing an embarrassing exit from the competition.
Inter and Ajax are both on five points in Group D, behind leaders Lyon,and should the Italians drop points tonight and the Dutch champions get a positive result in France, the decisive final group game between the pair would be weighted heavily in Ajax’s favour.
But the chance of Rosenborg, who have only won three of their last 23 Champions League matches, causing an upset against the Serie A leaders look slim. Confidence is high however after they clinched an eleventh consecutive domestic title back in Norway recently, and midfielder Roar Strand is dreaming of a surprise result.
“Of course, it’s a huge boost to arrive in Milan having just secured another title,” he said.
“Eleven titles in a row is something unique in Europe and of course it makes us believe that our side is capable of something that only few other sides can do – perhaps win in Milan,” he added.
Rosenborg held Inter to a 2-2 draw in their openinggroup game, and both Inter coach Hector Cuper and goalkeeper Francesco Toldo are aware that the Norwegians can cause even the best of sides problems.
“They’re capable of creating considerable difficulties for their opponents. I saw Ajax v Rosenborg and their 4-3-3 changes radically. Eleven players in their own half and then sudden counterattacks with three or four very quick players,” Cuper warned. Toldo added:
“We have plenty of respect for them. We have to be very careful at free-kicks and corners where they have the time to cause danger in the area as they are very strong in the air.”
With the win or bust game in Amsterdam on the horizon, Inter must get a result tonight, something that international defender Fabio Cannavaro appreciates.
“We need three points to go to Holland in a calmer frame of mind,” he explained.
‘Our objective is to get through to the second round of the Champions League and to achieve this we have to beat Rosenborg and get points in Amsterdam,” he added.
Rosenborg have a full complement of players available, but Inter are still without Christian Zannetti, and Domenico Morfeo is suspended. Luigi Di Biagio will come back in after a ban, and Francesco Coco could also figure once more.
Lyon v Ajax
Ajax go into tonight’s Group D game against Lyon in France knowing that regardless of results here and at Inter, the decisive game will come when they face the Italians at the Amsterdam ArenA on November 12.
If Ajax beat the Italian side by two goals they will qualify, however they will still be looking for all three points against the French champions in the hope that Inter drop points at home to Rosenborg.
Ajax beat Lyon in their opening group game, and despite Lyon going on to top the Group, coach Ronald Koeman is confident of a repeat victory.
“I know my team – we’ve only lost one match so far this season and we will go for the three points,” Koeman vowed.
“Lyon’s counterattacking is brilliant but there are opportunities to get at their defence – Inter scored three times in Lyon last week,” he added.
Lyon coach Paul Le Guen – who knows his side can qualify if they prevail tonight – is equally determined to take maximum points.
“We must seize the day,” he said. “We will just play to win – I feel obsessed by victory,” Le Guen admitted.
The team beat Ajaccio on Saturday, their third win in four games, and are keen to finish the group as winners, something which defender Eric Deflandre feels would be a fantastic achievement.
“We have twomatches in which to qualify but we want to do it on Wednesday. To finish first ahead of Ajax and Inter would be outstanding,” he enthused.
Ajax are without the suspended Jelle van Damme, and although Rafael van der Vaart returns to the squad, Koeman has said he will not start.
Lyon are missing Mohammed Diarra, who has contracted malaria, and thigh strain victim Claudio Cacapa.
: Coupet, Brechet, Muller, Edmilson, Laville; Violeau, Juninho; Carriere, Dhorasoo; Govou, Anderson.
Ajax: Timmer, Trabelso, O’Brien, Bergdolmo, Chivu, Galasek, Litmanen, Witschge, van der Meyde, Ibrahimovic, Boukhari.