Italy coach Marcello Lippi, the man who led the Azzurri to World Cup success in 2006, has suggested that Serie A clubs have nothing to fear when they face their English counterparts in this week’s Champions league last 16 second legs.
Roma and Juventus trail Arsenal and Chelsea respectively after the first leg a fortnight ago, while Inter travel to Manchester United on the back of a 0-0 draw at the San Siro. Although, the odds favour the English sides, Lippi believes that the Italian clubs can prevail.
“If the Italian teams present themselves at 100 per cent of their potential – technically, psychologically and athletically – I think all three will advance to the semi-finals,” he said.
Lippi, though respectful of the achievements of the Premier League contingent, does not believe that they are representative of English football as a whole.
“Chelsea, Manchester, Arsenal and Liverpool are not an expression of English football,” he said. “They’re an expression of globalised football in which the owners of the clubs, the coaches, and a great majority of the players are not English.”
Lippi’s optimism ahead of this week’s ties does not appear to be widely shared in Italy. Claudio Ranieri, coach of Juventus, has been talking of his side as long-odds underdogs.
Similarly, in Rome, there is pessimism about Roma’s chances of overturning the 1-0 deficit from the first leg against a resurgent Arsenal side.
At Inter though, coach Jose Mourinho, never one to suffer from a lack of confidence, remains optimistic of an upset against the reigning champions.
The club’s leading striker Zlatan Ibrahimovich believes the former Chelsea manager’s psychological edge over United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, may turn out to be significant at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
“Jose has the experience of beating Ferguson and United,” Ibrahimovic told the Daily Mirror.
“He hasn’t played in Manchester for two years but he knows how to beat them at Old Trafford, which is good for us.
“There’s definitely a psychological thing between them. Because Jose has been to Old Trafford before and knows what’s waiting for us, we will be prepared.”