Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

Marzia Hazra On March - 31 - 2010

Inter Milan vs. CSKA Moscow: Italians Slight Favorites

Inter Milan entertain CSKA Moscow at the Giuseppe Meazza for the first leg of the quarterfinals in Europe’s premier club competition tonight. Although Josè Mourinho’s men head into the clash as slight favorites, the Italians would themselves no favor by underestimating their Russian opposition in Wednesday evening’s mouth-watering fixture.

The Italian champions are set to play their first quarterfinal in the Champions League in four years. Even though things rarely looked convincing in the group stages where the Nerazzurri were drawn against three domestic champions, Mourinho’s men went on to impress in the final 16 and progress – despite the tough draw against the Portuguese’s previous employers, Chelsea. However, fighting on several fronts has taken its toll on the Italians’ domestic form – allowing AS Roma to move within a single point.

CSKA Moscow progressed to the knock-out stages with winners Manchester United from group B where the team was set to face Spanish outfit, Sevilla. The first encounter ended in 1-1 draw, but the Russians were to progress to the quarterfinals – making club history along the way – after an impressive showing at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuan where they collected a 2-1 victory. CSKA currently lie fourth in the Russian Premier League which started only three weeks ago. Having collected seven out of nine points they equal the tally of league leaders Spartak Nalchik. The Muscovites are not to be underestimated going into the clash having already held United to an epic 3-3 draw at Old Trafford and collected victories on their travels to Istanbul and Sevilla.

What is to be expected in tonight’s big game?

The teams clashed back in 2007/2008 at the Giuseppe Meazza where the home side emerged as winners after overturning a 2-0 deficit. Although Mourinho’s men may be distracted when it comes to Serie A, things look quite the opposite when it comes to playing in Europe’s elite club competition. The Nerazzurri are expected to control the game, leaving the Russians to work their magic on the counter when presented with the opportunity. Although the visitors would be perfectly happy with a draw, Leonid Slutsky’s men are almost required to score the all important away goal if they’re to make a real bid for the semifinal.

Slutsky have no injuries or suspensions to worry about ahead of tonight’s clash. Instead, Milos Krasic and Mark Gonzalez will be pose the biggest threats for Inter as the duo’s offensive qualities are close to lethal on counterattacks – and incredibly useful tracking back. CSKA’s sheer physicality has been impressive throughout their Champions League outings. However, the Russians have showcased deficiencies when it comes to set pieces – meaning centre back Walter Samuel’s dangerous headers and Diego Milito’s timed spurts could come to cause them great havoc. Keeping Wesley Sneijder in check will also be of outmost importance as most of the home side’s offense comes through the diminutive playmaker. Troubled starlet Mario Balotelli has once again been left out after having refused to apologize – a poor decision both for the player and the club as the Nerazzurri would no doubt benefit having all attacking options open considering the Muscovites will be more than happy with a share of the spoils. To top it all, the team will have to make do without suspended duo Lucio and Thiago Motta.

The last time Inter tasted Champions League glory was back in 1965. Is it finally time for the Nerazzurri to put an end to the 45 year long drought?

Only time will tell.

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