The Italian league season is but one game old and there are already rumblings around Europe that the mighty Inter who conquered all before them last season have already started their descent into the abyss under Rafael Benitez.
There was always going to be some sort of a transition period between the departure of Jose Mourinho and the arrival of Rafael Benitez and this was nowhere more evident than in the negative display against Atletico Madrid in the European Super Cup. Inter did not seem to be their reliable selves and the sluggish performance that followed on in the first Serie A game away at Bologna only went to compound the worries of the Inter faithful. Despite a much improved second half performance the Nerazzurri only came away with a goalless draw and this result whether seen as unlucky or poor must be improved on when Inter host Udinese this weekend.
Udinese’s season has also got off to a poor start when they crashed to a 1-0 defeat at home against Genoa. The home side had failed to impress and were eventually beaten by an overhead kick from Giandomenico Mesto that earned Genoa a vital three away points. The Bianconeri will have to re-group quickly and prepare for an ominous trip to the Giuseppe Meazza although it could be argued that there has not been a better time to play the Nerazzurri in a long time and an early goal could put an enormous amount of pressure on the Milanese giants.
Rafael Benitez will certainly be looking to kick start his league campaign with a victory at home on Sunday, the fans will be wanting to know that another Scudetto is in the offing and this of course is the minimum expectation for the Nerazzurri. The fans should stay calm at the moment as although the start has looked shaky there are a lot of positives about this Inter team that should result in Javier Zanetti lifting yet another Serie A trophy in May.
First of all the squad Inter have is still as strong as ever, the back four of Maicon, Lucio, Walter Samuel, and Javier Zanetti is as steadfast as ever and has to be classed as one of the best in the world; include Christian Chivu in this and it is still as potent. Inter have a midfield to that looks to be in the shape of its life with Dejan Stankovic and Esteban Cambiasso providing superb support for the creative magic of Wesley Sneijder. The forward line is also unchanged with Samuel Eto and Goran Pandev either side of the prolific Milito. This is a team that without a manager should finish in the European places and with the loss of Mario Balotelli being absorbed by the arrival of the talented Coutinho the balance and the harmony of the team should have actually improved.
Rafa Benitez will be compared to Jose Mourinho all season and this is something he will already know and no doubt expect. Benitez has many critics in the UK from his time managing Liverpool and has already been called negative after his opening salvos with Inter. What Inter have in Benitez is a coach who knows how to win competitions at the top level and his approach, although not pretty (neither was Mourinho’s) should suit the team and the Italian game. Results are all important for Inter and Benitez should be able to gain another title for the Nerazzurri as his players are experienced winners mixed with some exciting new talent and the fact that although other teams have strengthened none seem to be at the level where Inter are as yet. It is true that Milan have signed some fantastic flair players but it will be interesting to see how Massimiliano Allegri managed to fuse this talent together. Benitez has not been allowed to move in the transfer market and as this was his Achilles heel it is probably for the best that Marco Branca is deciding who will come and go from the Giuseppe Meazza.
All eyes will be on the Nerazzurri on Sunday and this is something they will relish, they will not fear Udinese and if they perform as they did in the second half against Bologna then it would be no surprise to see the points going Inter’s way. What if Inter do not win? This will not have even crossed the minds of anyone at the club.