Coachless Bologna were able to hold a rampant Inter, who nonetheless were devoid of creativity, in their first game of the new Serie A campaign. The Rossoblu, who had sacked coach Franco Colomba days before the start of the season, defended in numbers for much of the game and were able to earn their first point against the Nerazzuri in any game since the 2002 season.
Champions Inter still reeling after their Super cup loss to Atletico Madrid last week, held most of the possession but their play was all to often sloppy and lethargic. The visitors seemed happy to shoot from distance as their hosts were making life difficult in and around the area. Indeed the Nerazzuri had a staggering 23 attempts at goal, but only two were dangerous. A second half Wesley Sneijder freekick and a shot from Samuel Eto’o that hit the crossbar. In all fairness though Bologna deserved the point in the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara.
New Inter coach Rafa Benitez started with a back four of Christian Chivu, Walter Samuel, Lucio and Javier Zanetti; one key, regular player was missing; Daniel Maicon. With the Brazilian not even featuring on the bench it seems that the rumours are true and Maicon will soon be linking up with Jose Mourinho once again at Real Madrid. Watch this space as the transfer window comes to a close.
For the rest of the team, Benitez has changed little since the days of the so-called ‘special one’. The inclusion of Mcdonald Mariga was the sole difference distinguishing this side from the Inter team sheet of last season. Mariga would partner Esteban Cambiasso in midfield with Sneijder played as an attacking midfielder ahead of them. Indeed Benitez sensed all three points at the Dall’Ara after including the attacking trio of Goran Pandev, Samuel Eto’o and, playing in an advanced role, Diego Milito. However questions remain over the performance of Benitez, and the team’s faith in him, after this lacklustre performance, despite his ambitious tactics.
One last mention from the Bologna game was the Serie A debut of 18-year-old Philippe Coutinho. The young Brazilian replaced Pandev in the second half. There are high hopes for Coutinho who himself has said that he wants to excel and become the ‘next Kaka’.
Are Inter still feeling a ‘hangover’ after the successes of last season? It was the most rewarding year in the club’s history and a tough act to follow. Benitez will have to motivate a team that have picked up five Serie A titles on the trot and won the treble last season. The champions of Europe will now be the team to beat, and it will be fascinating to see how the Spaniard will manage his staff at the San Siro.
On the transfer front the Italian sports pages are claiming that Inter have made a move for Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas. The story claims that the Nerazzuri will offer €35m plus Sulley Muntari. If it were to be successful the move would be one of the biggest transfer shocks in recent memory, given that the Spaniard was all set for a move to his hometown club Barcelona next season. There is confirmation however of the departure of Victor Obinna to West Ham United. The twenty-three-year old Nigerian will be loaned out and stay in London for at least a year.
The Champions League draw of course was made last Thursday, and in case you did not know (although you should have) the European champions have been drawn in group A alongside Tottenham Hotspur, Werder Bremen and FC Twente. One unfamilar club will be the Premier League’s Tottenham Hotspur who despite their history will be making their Champions League bow and playing their first European Cup matches since the heady days of 1962. The Nerazzuri start their defence of the title away to Dutch champions Twente.
The European domestic leagues will now take a two-week break for the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign, with Inter returning to the pitch against Udinese at the Giuseppe Meazza stadium on September 11th.