After last week’s absorbing 0-0 encounter between Milan and Inter, the San Siro plays host to the second instalment of the Milanese derby, and with a place in the Champions League final awaiting the winners, a tense evening is expected.
Last week’s first leg tie, though marvellously competitive and technically accomplished, was short on thrills and goalmouth action, but with a place in the final only 90 minutes away, a more open match is predicted tonight. The onus is upon Inter to attack because if the match ends in a score draw then their arch-rivals will prevail.
Defending has become second nature to Hector Cuper’s Inter side and their attacking cause is not helped tonight by the absence through injury of Serie A’s leading scorer Christian Vieri. Fortunately, the presence of Hernan Crespo and Alvaroo Recooba, will soften the blow somewhat, but Vieri’s absence is definitely a blow.
Cuper, who led Valencia to successive finals in 2000 and 2001, has described the match as the biggest game in his career. Despite their poor record against Milan this season (two defeats and last week’s goalless draw), Cuper he is convinced his team can beat Milan.
“I’m even more convinced. I have to analyse 180 minutes. For the moment I’ve only seen the first half of the clash, but I think Inter deserve the final,” said the Argentinian.
Inter’s 1-1 draw with Parma on Saturday ended their faint hopes of a first Italian title since 1989 and more worryingly, was their successive fourth draw in a row, but Cuper remains unperturbed.
“A coach always has to worry about something – if you win but don’t play well, if you play well but don’t win. I think our play has improved in the last two or three games but the results have not been the best,” he said.
“Against Parma we gave a good performance but that was not enough to win.”
Inter have failed to score against Milan in all three meetings this season, and the loss of Christian Vieri has not helped their cause. However, Cuper seemed relatively unconcerned a the prospect of facing Milan without Italy’s most consistent goalscorer.
“If it is (Ivan) Cordoba who scores or Cristiano Zanetti or (Luigi) Di Biagio or Javier Zanetti, it is the same to me,” he added.
Cuper is also waiting to hear news of of wing-back Francesco Coco’s fitness. Coco is suffering from a shin injury, but if he recovers the Inter coach said he would stick with the five-man defence that kept Milan at bay in the first leg. If he misses out, Stephane Dalmat could cover the left flank – or Inter may even switch to a back four with Cordoba operating as left-back.
Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti admits he is expecting another tight encounter, although he claims that his teamwill take the game to Inter.
“We won’t play a waiting game, we will take the same approach as in the first leg and the other derbies this year,’ said Ancelotti.
‘We have looked to play good football and we will try to do thatagain.’
“We know there is a lot of pressure on us and that there are a lot of expectations, we feel that within ourselves. We know that we need to do something special, that this is a big match, a semi-final and everyone of us has to do something important.”
“The important thing is for us to play good football and create problems for Inter. It is through playing good football that you get the results,” he said.
“Every match is different but those preceding games against Inter show that the concentration has been there in every game,” he added.
Ancelotti was keeping his line-up close to his chest and refused to to rule out a recall for Brazilians Rivaldo and Serginho, despite their below-par performances from the duo in the 1-0 defeat to Brescia in Serie A on Saturday.
“The Brescia game was an ugly episode where we gave a poor showing of ourselves but it was the team as a whole who messed up the match. Rivaldo and Serginho will beimportant against Inter,” he said.
Nonetheless it looks likely that the pair will start the game on the bench.
Ancelotti has been forced to makeÿa change after keeper Dida injured his hand in the Brescia game.ÿChristian Abbiati is expected to start the game.
Internazionale: Toldo; J Zanetti, Cordoba, Cannavaro, Coco (Pasquale); Dalmat, Di Biagio, C Zanetti, Emre; Crespo, Recoba
Milan: Abiatti; Costacurta,Nesta, Maldini, Kaladze; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf; Rui Costa; Shevchenko, Inzaghi