Inter must be heading into Saturday night’s clash with Catania at the San Siro thinking “Thank God for domestic form”. The reigning holders of the Scudetto have had a week of different outcomes and will look to take more from their 5-0 trouncing of Genoa on the Grifone’s home turf than the heart-stopping 2-2 draw with Dynamo Kiev in mid-week. Although, with the Catania game coming in the same week as the lucky escape against Kiev, Saturday’s match-up could really shed some light on the mental toughness of the Nerazzurri.
While Inter are cursing their luck and staring another year in the face where the holy grail of the Champions League eludes them, lowly Catania are miraculously unbeaten in five. However, the statistic reads better than the reality with the Rossazzurri picking up their first win of the campaign with a late show to see off Cagliari 2-1 at the Angelo Massimo following four successive draws.
Despite having utilised veteran hothead Marco Materazzi as a make-shift striker during a vane attempt to snatch the win against Kiev, Jose Mourinho will gladly welcome his first choice strike pairing of Samuel Eto’o (who appeared mid-week) and Diego Milito back to the fold. The duo sat out the clash as Inter cruised to victory at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris, with both carrying respective knocks, but the pair look certain to displace Mario Balotelli and midfielder Sulley Muntari at the head of the Internazionale line.
Mourinho will be hopeful that Dejan Stankovic can replicate his all action display from Genoa that was capped off with an audacious lob from the halfway line, as elsewhere, Thiago Motta – who sat out the defeat of his former club – looks likely to remain in the stands for the time being.
12 Julio Cesar
13 Maicon – 25 Samuel – 6 Lucio – 26 Chivu
5 Stankovic – 19 Cambiasso – 4 Zanetti
9 Eto’o – 22 Milito
The Sicilians left it late to snatch their first win of the campaign with an 88th minute header proving the difference against Cagliari and marking their first win since they toppled Napoli at the back end of last season. Sunday’s hero Jorge Andres Martinez, who recovered from a knee injury to feature against the Sardinians, may be dropped to the bench as Coach Gianluca Atzori fields a 4-3-2-1 with Takayuki Morimoto set to lead the line.
The Etnei defence is set to take on an altogether different composition with half of the men hoping to prevent Eto’o and co. free from suspension. Giovanni Marchese and Blazej Augustyn are set to make way for the returning Ciro Capuano and Nicolas Spolli at left-back and centre-back respectively. In addition, Atzori can welcome back former Sampdoria man Genarro Delvecchio at the expense of Cristian Llama, Delvecchio was also serving a ban last week and missed out on the celebrations.
2 Potenza – 3 Spolli – 6 Silvestre – 33 Capuano
13 Izco – 5 Carboni – 4 Delvecchio
19 Ricchiuti – 7 Mascara
Languishing in 15th – as they finished the 2008/09 season – it is fair to say that not much is expected of Catania at the Giuseppe Meazza but with Inter fatigued and low on confidence following their European exploits this may be the perfect time for the Sicilians to snatch something. However, Inter are not fools when it comes to the importance of the domestic set-up, as Saturday’s result exemplifies. Expect Eto’o and Milito to try and reignite the partnership that has helped bolster the Nerazzurri’s attempt to retain lo Scudetto and possible take out their pent-up frustrations on the Rossozurri backline.
Last year it wasn’t particularly straight-forward for Mourinho, as Catania almost caused an upset in this fixture in September 2008. Reading off a different script than their hosts, Catania took the lead in 42nd minute through Gianvito Plasmati and, after a Ricardo Quaresma equaliser and a red-card for Sulley Muntari, only lost to an exceptionally contentious own goal by Christian Terlozzi. The centre-half headed Maicon’s long throw backwards against the post, which the referee inexplicably deemed to have crossed the line as Albano Bizzarri collected it. The goal stood and Jose Mourinho gained his first victory in the Nerazzurri hot-seat, and the Chosen One will be grateful of more luck on Saturday evening.