As it turned out, it was not the most anxious of games for Inter, particularly when one considers the magnitude of the occasion. Wesley Sneijder’s early goal calmed Inter nerves – the Nerazzurri rarely looked like throwing away such a commanding position.
To give credit to CSKA Moscow, they played with a lot of spirit – especially for a side that needed three goals without reply after just six minutes played. But they were playing against a superior side that once again got the tactics just right. Diego Milito will be one Inter payer that is slightly disappointed with his performance, as he missed a couple of chances that he would usually have expected to score without any problems. Having said that, it seems churlish to criticise a side that showed a very pragmatic attitude in knowing exactly what was required of them and executing it perfectly.
The game once again underlined the importance of Sneijder to the Nerazzurri, not because he had to provide the creation and run the side, but because he made the difference. The former Ajax man shows up when the team needs him most, and this is an ability (if he stays fit) that will more than repay the ludicrously low transfer fee that Inter paid for him.
In terms of the Champions League, Inter have done exceptionally well to get to the semi-finals after their poor start, but now they face a Barcelona side that has also rediscovered their form since the two sides met in the group stages. There is also the not inconsiderable matter of having to deal with Lionel Messi, a man who has received so much praise this week that it almost seems redundant to mention his performance against Arsenal. Inter can take heart from the fact that they are much better organised in defence than the Gunners, and Jose Mourinho will certainly not make the mistake of trying to beat Barca at their own passing game.
But before la Beneamata start to consider their next European game, they have the matter of a trip to face Fiorentina this weekend. Although the Viola have not been at their best this season, the Stadio Artemio Franchi is not a place to which teams relish going, and it has the potential to be a real stumbling block in Inter’s quest for the Scudetto. The squad, however, is relatively injury-free despite David Santon’s season being ended by injury this week.
The question of how the team has recovered after travelling all the way to Moscow and back may well also have an impact on what side Mourinho picks, with possibly another appearance for the veteran Materazzi in order to rest some of the midweek starters. But the Coach will be reluctant to make too many changes – because not only are Roma lying in wait should the Nerazzurri slip up, but they have been talking with the confidence of a side that has real belief that the Scudetto will end up in the trophy case at the Stadio Olimpico this season.
One piece of news that may have soured an otherwise excellent week is the news that Inter’s 2005-06 Scudetto may be revoked over new allegations in the Calciopoli scandal. After Christian Vieri allegedly asked the FIGC to strip the club and new evidence has appeared in the trial in Naples, the Italian FA is going to re-consider its decision to award the 05-06 title to la Beneamata. Should that happen, Inter will need this season’s Scudetto just to maintain their current amount of titles, which is surely added incentive, if any was needed, for the players to give everything this season.