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Champions League Preview: Inter - CSKA Moscow

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Will Jose Mourinho's side struggle against the Russian adventure-seekers?

By Subhankar Mondal

Mar 30, 2010 12:00:00 PM

Kick-Off: Wednesday, March 31, 2010, 20:45 CET.
Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan, Italy
 
Conquering Europe Again

The last time Inter won the European Cup the Beatles were just about five years old and the last time the Nerazzurri reached the semi-finals of the Champions League, the Premier League domination of Europe was still a thing of the future. In fact, this is the first time in four years that the four-times running Italian champions have qualified for the quarter-finals of Europe's most coveted club competition.

However, Inter reached the last eight stage in style. After defeating Premier League giants Chelsea 2-1 at the San Siro in the first leg of their last 16 tie, the Beneamata won 1-0 at Stamford Bridge with a masterclass performance that had many claiming Inter to be the favourites for this season's Champions League after Barcelona. Indeed, defeating a side like Chelsea twice is no mean feat and Jose Mourinho will certainly like the winning habit to continue in Europe.

Inter last reached the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2003 and have an unbeaten record at home both in Serie A and in Europe in 2009-10. Although the former European champions have been struggling in the Italian top flight in the last few weeks, having
won just two of their last nine league fixtures, their performance in Europe has been professional and at times superb, which implies that Mourinho's side will start the tie against CSKA Moscow as favourites.

Moreover, Mourinho has a 100 per cent record in UEFA Champions League quarter-finals and Inter have already confronted a Russian side this term in the shape of Rubin Kazan, whom they drew with away and defeated at home.

Uncharted Territory

CSKA Moscow had little competitive match practice when they took on Sevilla away from home in the second leg of their last 16 tie in the Champions League, but still won 2-1. It was yet another brilliant display by the Army Men away from home in Europe this season as they had earlier held Premier League superpowers Manchester United to a 3-3 draw at Old Trafford and had defeated Turkish side Besiktas in Istanbul.

This is the first time ever that CSKA have reached the quarter-finals of Europe's premier club competition and are also the first Russian team to reach the quarter-finals since Spartak Moscow 14 years ago. Coach
Leonid Skutsky has admitted that the Russian Horses will be observed as the underdogs in this tie but he seems happy with this status as he feels that this will take pressure off his men.

The new Russian Premier League season has just started and CSKA are doing pretty well. The 2005 UEFA Cup winners are currently fourth after three rounds and have seven points, as many as Spartak Nalchik in pole position do. However, the Muscovites didn't win very convincingly against Anzhi over the weekend, just edging them out 2-1.

Nevertheless, CSKA will be looking forward to scoring a precious away goal at the San Siro on Wednesday evening so that they have some advantage in the return leg. They scored thrice at Old Trafford and will be looking to gain some inspiration from that result.
FORM GUIDE

Inter

March 27 v Roma (A) - LOST 2-1 (Serie A)

March 24 v Livorno (H) - WON 3-0 (Serie A) March 20 v Palermo (A) - DREW 1-1 (Serie A)

March 16 v Chelsea (A) - WON 1-0 (Champions League)
March 12 v Catania (A) - LOST 3-1 (Serie A)
CSKA Moscow
March 26 v Anzhi (A) - WON 2-1 (Russian Premier League)
March 21 v Dynamo Moscow (H) - DREW 0-0 (Russian Premier League)
March 16 v Sevilla (A) - WON 2-1 (Champions League)
March 12 v Amkar (H) - WON 1-0 (Russian Premier League)
March 7 v Rubin Kazan (N) - LOST 1-0 (Russian Super Cup)


TEAM NEWS
Inter
Davide Santon is the only Inter player who is affected by injury. It is still not clear whether the Italian youngster will recover from a right knee problem in time for Wednesday's match. Moreover, Jose Mourinho's side are without the suspended duo Lucio and Thiago Motta, meaning that Cristian Chivu will slot into central defence and partner Walter Samuel while Javier Zanetti will feature at left-back in place of Santon. There are also doubts whether Mourinho will recall Mario Balotelli, who has been frozen out of the Inter side in recent weeks.
Probable Line-up (4-2-1-3): Julio Cesar, Maicon, Samuel, Chivu, Zanetti; Cambiasso, Stankovic; Sneijder; Pandev, Milito, Eto'o
CSKA Moscow
Defender Kiril Nababkin missed the Round of 16 second leg tie against Sevilla because of an ankle injury but he will back in the squad for the trip to Milan on Wednesday. Attacking midfielder Alan Dzagoev is likely to start on the bench.
Probable Line-up (4-2-3-1): Akinfeev; A. Berezutsky, V. Berezutsky, Ignashevich, Schennikov; Semberas, Aldonin
; Krasic, Honda, Gonzalez; Necid

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Samuel Eto'o (Inter)

The Cameroonian international striker is a man for the big occasions, as he demonstrated against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Eto'o hasn't been scoring in Serie A as freely as he did in La Liga for Barcelona but the 29-year-old certainly remains world class and is one of the three best strikers on the planet. Eto'o had a rather poor game against Roma at the weekend but he scored two brilliant goals against Livorno in midweek. Placed 66th in the Castrol Rankings, Eto'o will be on fire to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League three years in a row.

Keisuke Honda (CSKA Moscow)
The Japanese international midfielder has been a revelation in the Champions League this season and scored the tie-winner against Sevilla in Seville. Honda has been ever-present in central midfield for CSKA Moscow in 2009-10 and his long range shots, passing skills and ability to take on defences will be crucial for the Army Men on Wednesday evening. With Lucio missing from Inter's central defence, the 23-year-old will be doubly confident of creating havoc at San Siro.

CHAMPION LEAGUE PREDICTION

Inter have been woeful in Serie A for a number of weeks now but the Beneamata have been strong in the Champions League. With Lucio out, CSKA Moscow will be more confident of getting past the Nerazzurri backline. However, Inter have quite a formidable record at home this season both in Italy and in Europe and it wouldn't be probable for the Russian side to win the first leg. An away goal, though, is very much on the cards.

Inter 2-1 CSKA Moscow
 

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