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

Frank Tigani On February - 21 - 2012

Inter-View: Last Chance for the Tinkerman?

Inter are in a crisis…sound familiar? It should.

Fans of the club have been taken on a ride so far this year that would rival even the very best roller-coaster you could find.

The Nerazzurri have struggled through drastic dips in form throughout the season, and find themselves in trouble once more.

Inter have lost five of its previous six matches, picking up only a solitary point in that time. Pressure is mounting on experienced manager Claudio Ranieri, evidenced by Inter fans who protested during the 3-0 loss to Bologna on Friday evening.

The chants? Not surprisingly, they called for the return of former coach Jose Mourinho.

For Ranieri and his players, the Champions League is the final opportunity to turn things around this season and put those chants to rest, for now.

Sitting in seventh place in the Serie A table and having been dumped from the Coppa Italia by Napoli, Inter’s final chance at silverware is none other than Ol’ Big Ears itself.

That quest begins tomorrow with a tricky away fixture against Olympique de Marseille at the Stade Velodrome.

Ranieri remains confident that despite the club’s brutal form of late, Inter can step up on the biggest European stage there is.

“I believe that this team has its natural habitat in the Champions League. Our players have a lot of experience in this competition, so they approach the matches with the right mentality and focus,” Ranieri told France Football.

While Inter are stuttering, Marseille are in the midst of a 15-match unbeaten run.

But, the French giants will be without their most threatening attacker as striker Loic Remy will miss out on the contest because of a thigh injury.

The French international has been a constant threat up front for former Juventus manager Didier Deschamps, scoring 17 times in all competitions. Remy’s absence will put much of the attacking burden on diminutive winger Mathieu Valbuena, who will look to exploit Inter’s backline which has been poor of late, to say the least.

Inter has conceded 15 goals in the last six matches, and the likes of Valbuena and Andre Ayew will be hoping to continue that misery by attacking with pace against a Nerazzurri side lacking that quality in many areas.

Regardless, Deschamps is not preparing for the quarter-final stage just yet. He expects the Italian side to be a stern opponent on Wednesday evening.

“I’m convinced that the real strength of this team and its players hasn’t been shown over the last four or five league games,” Deschamps said on Tuesday. “Given how important the match is, Inter will have a different attitude.”

Some of that attitude may return in the form of Argentinian duo Diego Milito and Walter Samuel.

Il Principe is the only player to have scored for Inter in the last six contests, with all of those goals coming in the thrilling 4-4 home draw with Palermo. He returns to the lineup after battling a flu which forced him to miss the match with Bologna.

In addition, Ranieri will finally have summer signing Diego Forlan available for the competition. Forlan was ineligible for the group stages after his transfer from Atletico Madrid, but will be a welcome addition for the club as they search for critical away goals.

But it may be Walter Samuel who makes the biggest impact of all the South American stars. The wall, as he is known, will almost certainly return to the starting eleven in place of Andrea Ranocchia, who is simply a mistake waiting to happen when he throws on the black and blue stripes.

With a full reserve of players at his disposal, it’s now or never for Ranieri.

The Tinkerman will be hoping that Inter are able to match the performances of their Italian counterparts, Milan and Napoli, and secure a positive result ahead of the second leg on March 13 at the San Siro.

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