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Aymen Gheddai On February - 23 - 2010

Champions League Preview: Inter vs. Chelsea

Ever since the draw for the Champions League knockout stage took place in December, one of the key match-ups was clearly Inter versus Chelsea. There were numerous storylines that were immediately discussed by football fans everywhere. There is the fact that they have been highly successful in their domestic leagues in the past six years making it a tough encounter for both teams, neither of the sides have transferred their league form to the Champions League which has resulted in a shared eagerness by both teams to claim the title, and last, but not least, there is the “minor” issue of the respective managers. Carlo Ancelotti, current Chelsea manager, is the former coach of Inter’s bitter rivals AC Milan, while Jose Mourinho, current Inter manager, was a highly popular and successful coach of Chelsea.

Considering the coaches’ past positions, knowledge of their respective opponents is something both Ancelotti and Mourinho possess. Having said that, that knowledge does have its limits. Beginning with Ancelotti, there is a certain amount of familiarity he has with Inter considering all the Milan derbies he took part in, however the current Inter team varies in tactics and personnel from the one Ancelotti knew in recent seasons. For the past three seasons the majority of Inter’s performances revolved around Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the lone striker. Ibra practically led Inter to three Scudetti, almost single handedly at times, as he grew into the point man position utilized by both Mancini and Mourinho. When Ibrahimovic left last summer, in came two world class strikers in Diego Milito and Samuel Eto’o, and instanstly Inter possessed a two man attack (the first difference for Ancelotti) that would strike fear into the hearts of any defense. The second major difference that Carletto will no doubt have noticed is the presence of a certain Wesley Sneijder. In the Dutchman, Inter seem to have finally found the trequartista they seriously lacked, and now there seems to be decent link-up play between the midfield and attack.

Mourinho, on the other hand, faces more of tactical switch since his time at Chelsea rather than a personnel switch. Virtually the whole starting line-up Chelsea fields is the same as it was during Mourinho’s tenure. In spite of that, Ancelotti has made some key tactical switches that will be noteworthy to the “Special One.” First of all, Chelsea now use a two man attack with Drogba and Anelka, contrary to Mourinho’s one man attack system. This modification has provided great dividends as both strikers have been able to link up well with both players scoring three goals each in the Champions League this year. Another tactical change made by Ancelotti is the employment of his famous diamond midfield which he achieved great success with at Milan. Ancelotti made sure he brought an Italian gift to London when he arrived in the Premier League, the trequartista position. This role has been filled by Frank Lampard, Deco, and even Joe Cole this season, and has been an alternative to the former wing play utilized by Mourinho’s Chelsea.

While it will be interesting to see how the coaches adapt to these new tactical looks, the football will be on the pitch, and that means the key players will bear a great significance on how these matches play out. For Chelsea, undoubtedly the main player is going to be Didier Drogba. It is essential that the Ivorian plays at his highest level if Chelsea are to obtain a positive result. With 19 goals in the league this season and three in the Champions League, Samuel, Cordoba, and/or Lucio should all be on high alert. The loss of both Michael Essien and Ashley Cole are massive blows for Chelsea, but Zhirkov and Mikel should be able to deputise effectively.

As for Inter, they will be hoping that three new players all perform well if they are to advance to the next round. It will be critical for Eto’o, Milito, and Sneijder to connect if the Beneamata are to stand any chance in this tie. Another area Inter will look to exploit will be the right hand side of the pitch. With both Maicon and Zanetti certain to be up for this spectacle, it will be interesting to see how Zhirkov (Cole’s replacement) and a defensively questionable Malouda can cope with the Inter stars.

While the match is likely to be played very tightly by both teams, Inter are at home with a point to prove. The Italian champions know they have to obtain a positive result before the away match at Stamford Bridge. Meanwhile, Chelsea are a team with quality all the way through and are compact both at home and away. That being said, Inter should be able to muster enough effort to squeeze a marginal lead going into the second leg.

Prediction: Inter 2-1 Chelsea

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2 Responses so far.

  1. Saleh says:

    Nice…sprinkle a little bit of crack on that h*$…lmao

  2. Walker says:

    so Saleh offer some spice. I mean speak your mind would love to read.

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