Although only a week has passed since Inter were humiliated in their own back garden by a rampant Schalke team, the mood in Milan has lifted considerably.
A good result against Chievo at the weekend has only added to the positive atmosphere in the Inter camp ahead of tonight’s second leg. The squad are making all the right noises, too, with Samuel Eto’o claiming: “It might be difficult to believe at the moment but anything is possible in football. Inter have a team capable of going there and getting the result needed to reach the semis.”
Giampaolo Pazzini and Yuto Nagatomo have echoed the Cameroonian’s sentiment and even the opposition seem to be talking up Inter’s chances with Raul asserting that the tie is far from won. With the score as it stands, one could be forgiven for writing Inter off, but it is difficult to imagine a side better equipped to get such an unlikely result.
In the first leg, Inter paid a heavy price for some sloppy defensive performances. For tonight’s game, they will be able to look to the returning Lucio to provide some stability in place of the farcical Cristian Chivu. As well as making life more difficult for Raul and company, Lucio will look to play his usual game by pushing forward and starting off attacks.
Aside from Lucio, Inter are likely to field an unchanged side to the one that was put to the sword a week ago. This will afford the players with an interesting and immediate opportunity to make amends for the first leg. Players like Eto’o, Javier Zanetti, Maicon and Wesley Sneijder will all be keen to erase the memory of their second half performances last week when each went MIA.
In contrast to the confident attitude displayed by many of his players, Leonardo has been unsurprisingly downbeat about his side’s chances of qualifying, even claiming that, were he a club director, he would sack himself at times. It is difficult, though, to imagine a Coach better suited to this situation. With his side requiring at least four away goals, his cavalier style and emphasis on attack seems to be the ideal approach.
Of course, Inter must be better defensively than in the first leg, but other than that the only thing their display last week really lacked was clinical finishing. They had more possession, a better pass completion ratio and conceded far fewer fouls than the German side. If they are to succeed in retrieving anything from the game, not only must they improve defensively, they must be as close to perfect as it is possible to be in every aspect of their play.
Obviously, the odds are stacked against Inter; they are away from home against a confident Schalke outfit trying to overturn a 2-5 deficit from the first leg. However, they possess all the tools to achieve a miracle and come back from the dead. While they may be down, last season’s champions are not out just yet.