There will be an air of familiarity about tonight’s match with Valencia visiting an Inter side coached by Hector Cuper, the man who led the Spanish team to successive Champions League finals in 2000 and 2001.
Thematch has come at a time of struggle for both clubs with Valencia virtually conceding their Spanish title after a 2-0 defeatt to Real Betis saw them drop 13 pints behind leaders Real Madrid. Meanwhile, Inter’s 3-3 draw with Roma at the weekend, left them five points adrift of Juventus with seven matches to play.
However, despite his team’s patchy domestic form, Cuper remains upbeat ahead of tonight;s encounter.
“Results in the league cannot affect our morale in the Champions League,” he said.
“They are two different competitions. It is the same for Valencia. It is more a case of the spectators getting worried than the players. Against Roma we didn’t concentrate and were punished – we need to work out how to correct these mistakes but players are not machines; mistakes are inevitable.”
“We must not forget that this is a 180-minute match; nothing will be decided tomorrow. I must try to keep my players calm and not think about the derby. Valencia refuse to give up and have very good defensive stability, but I believe that we have a chance to win.”
Inter will be at full strength for the fixture as Alvaro Recoba and Christian Vieri, scorer of 24 league goals, return from suspension. Materazzi is likely to replace Cordoba in central defence, who in turn could shift to the left at the expense of Coco.
The visitors will bbe withoutsuspended central defender Mauricio Pellegrino, while Curro Torres and Kily Gonzalez are longer-term injury casualties. Carlos Marchena is ready to step infor Pellergino, and Miguel Angel Angulo is on standby in case Rufete fails to pass a late fitness test on Wednesday
Valencia coach Rafael Benitez, having surpassed Cuper’s achievements by winning the Spanish League last season, is looking to go one better than the Argentinian by landing Europe”s most prestigious trophy.
“It will be difficult but not impossible,” said Benitez of the challenge.
“In away games in Europe teams usually expect you to play for a draw but I assure you we will try to score and win.”
Inter: Toldo; Javier Zanetti, Cannavaro, Materazzi, Cordoba or Coco; Conceicao, Cristiano Zanetti, Di Biagio, Emre; Vieri, Recoba.
Valencia: Canizares, Reveillere, Ayala, Marchena, Carboni, Rufete, Albelda, Baraja, Vicente, Aimar, Carew