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What a rollercoaster week it has been for the Nerazzurri faithful…yet again.

As expected, last Wednesday brought about the official end to Gian Piero Gasperini’s reign as Inter head coach, with the damning 3-1 loss to Novara solidifying his fate. After zero wins in the first five competitive matches, a stop plug was needed to halt any more of Inter’s season running down the drain.

The stop plug’s name?  Claudio Ranieri.

Many have questioned the hiring of Ranieri and his long term compatibility with the club.  Quite simply, he was chosen to take over the Inter hot seat as an immediate fix due to his previous experience with big clubs, as well as his ability to achieve the necessary results to reach the Champions League.

In recent years, ‘The Tinkerman’ has been known to the Nerazzurri as the enemy, as he guided both Juventus and Roma to second place finishes behind Inter.  As many may remember, Ranieri’s Roma stretched Jose Mourinho’s Inter until the last day of the treble winning season, in which the two managers had numerous spats through the media.  These memories have kept Interisti at bay, but Ranieri started off his tenure as Inter coach the right way by basically implementing the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Gasperini’s highly publicized use of the 3-4-3 system without adaptation drew much criticism, yet as soon as Ranieri was hired, Inter’s new manager said that he did not believe in a “certain winning system but in winning players.”  With a veteran squad such that of Inter, the Tinkerman did not tinker so much with the old winning formula, as he reverted to a 4-3-1-2 against Bologna at the weekend.

Due to injuries, some of the familiar names were not available, which now included Wesley Sneijder due to an injury he picked up last week against Novara.  Inter lined up with Julio Cesar in goal; Yuto Nagatomo, Lucio, Walter Samuel, and Cristian Chivu in defense.  Captain Javier Zanetti, Esteban Cambiasso, and Joel Obi were in the midfield, as Philippe Coutinho slotted into the trequartista role behind strikers Diego Forlan and Giampaolo Pazzini.

After a shaky first few minutes, the squad settled in to the formation that everyone was comfortable in and the confidence in play was apparent.  Inter held possession through the first half and with the ease of play, it almost looked like Gasperini’s forced 3-4-3 was nothing but a bad dream.  The visitors took the lead in the 39th minute after a quick, but beautiful sequence between Forlan, Cambiasso, and Pazzini.  ‘Pazzo’ finished off the move by smashing home the first goal of the match and his first goal of the season.  It was important that Inter kept their focus until halftime and thanks to Cesar’s amazing reflexes, Inter went into the break with a one goal lead.

After play resumed, there was a necessity for the second goal to put minds at ease, especially with the defense frailties that Inter have been experiencing.  The second goal of the match did come, but unfortunately it was for Bologna after infamous referee Paolo Tagliavento called a penalty in the home side’s favour.  (Tagliavento was the referee who was the intended target of Mourinho’s now famous handcuff gesture after reducing Inter to nine men in 2010.)

Ranieri made two of his substitutions early in the second half, taking out Coutinho and Obi for Jonathan and Sulley Muntari, respectively.  He saved his last sub after Bologna’s goal, replacing Forlan with Diego Milito.  ‘Il Principe’ made an immediate impact, winning a penalty and burying the following penalty kick with less than ten minutes to go in the match.  The match was put on ice with three minutes left in regulation, as Lucio buried a header from a Muntari free kick. After five minutes of added time, Tagliavento called full time, giving Inter their first win of the 2011-12 season.

Full focus since Saturday has now been on the Champions League and CSKA Moscow.  Aside from the well documented injuries, Andrea Ranocchia picked up an adductor injury in last night’s training that will see him sidelined for nearly a month according to early diagnosis.  Milito and Pazzini are slated to start together up front for the Nerazzurri, as last weekend’s display has shown that once again, the two forwards are capable of playing with each other.  Ranieri will undoubtedly deploy a 4-4-2, with Zanetti partnering Cambiasso in the center of the pitch, as the manager has stated that he believes ‘Pupi’ is the most effective playing in the midfield.

Ranieri may have a way to go until he warms the hearts of Interisti, but he has made a concerted effort in trying to connect with the club.  He seemingly understands the history and names that makes Inter legendary and instead of trying to erase it or forcibly leave his mark, he has intelligently decided to embrace the names and pictures that grace the walls at Appiano Gentile.  Only time will tell if this partnership is successful and until then, everything must be taken one game at a time, which fits nicely with Ranieri’s statement that “the next game is always the big one.”


Today’s Champions League starting line-ups courtesy of

MOSCOW - Here are the starting line-ups for CSKA Moscow v Inter, Matchday 2 of the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League, being played at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow this evening (20:00 local time, 18:00 CET).
CSKA Moscow: 30 Gabulov; 14 Nababkin, 24 V. Berezutski, 4 Ignashevich, 6 A. Berezutski; 22 Aldonin; 26 Oliseh, 10 Dzagoev, 9 Vagner Love, 17 Mamaev; 8 Doumbia.
Subs: 1 Chepchugov, 2 Semberas, 19 Cauna, 21 Tosic, 25 Rahimic, 48 Popov, 59 Fedetov.
Coach: Leonid Slutsky.

Inter: 1 Julio Cesar; 55 Nagatomo, 6 Lucio, 25 Samuel, 26 Chivu; 4 Zanetti, 19 Cambiasso, 20 Obi; 11 Alvarez; 7 Pazzini, 22 Milito.
Subs: 12 Castellazzi, 16 Caldirola, 42 Jonathan, 48 Crisetig, 29 Coutinho, 28 Zarate, 94 Romanò.
Coach: Claudio Ranieri.

Referee: Craig Thomson (Sco); assistants Andrews/Ross, fourth man Allan, additional assistants McLean/Madden.

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