First: I hate the Champions League. I dont know (and I dont care) what the bad juju is between Inter and European competition, I just know it exists. I will freely admit that I pin no hopes on this tournament. I try very hard not to have any expectations. If we win - great! If it all goes horribly pear shaped (again) - meh. I will be no worse off than I am right now. That said, lets kick some London butt.
What: Inter v Chelsea, Champions League Knockout Stage Leg 1
Where: San Siro, Milan
Doomsday Wednesday, 8:45pm local time (11:45am pacific, 2:45pm eastern)
How to Watch: Live on FSC, ppv from UEFA ($9.95), or find a stream: MyP2P, Rojadirecta, Ustream, and ATDHE.net
I am not even going to bother with a THEM section this time. I dont know a darn thing about this season's Chelsea, nor do I really want to. If you are interested in them, go check out the preview up on the Chelsea board. For our purposes, all that is really important is that like us, they are running low on available left backs, and they employ both Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka - between the two of them they have 6 European goals this season (which is 1 less than Inter has for the whole team).
Somehow this photo makes me feel much better about upcoming game.
Mourinho has called up everyone he possibly can:
Goalkeepers: Toldo, Julio Cesar, Orlandoni.
Defenders: Cordoba, Zanetti, Lucio, Maicon, Samuel.
Midfielders: Stankovic, Quaresma, Thiago Motta, Sneijder, Muntari, Krhin, Mariga, Cambiasso.
Strikers: Eto'o, Milito, Pandev, Balotelli.
You will notice the distinct lack of leftbacks on that list. Santon still has the knee issue so is out, along with Chivu (head) and Materazzi (thigh). Thankfully, Balotelli at least has made the list.
Julio Cesar's post Lambo face - not nearly as bad as it could have been.
As I am sure you all know, Julio Cesar totaled his Lambo Sunday night and although he has been called up, he will have to pass a fitness test before he can play. According to his wife (who was on a plane coming home from Rio Sunday), this is what happened: JC had some friends over to the house and at 10pm they decided to go out for ice cream and "enjoy the car" (read: drive way too fast). He is ok but for a couple black eyes (do Lamborghinis even have airbags?) and some minor lacerations, but with car accidents, you just never know. I know it is not the best news, but it so could have been worse. Still, I cant help but be a little disappointed with his behavior. What a crashingly stupid and stereotypically douchy-football-player thing to do. Julio, I thought you knew better.
The next big question is: who in left back? The obvious choice is Zanetti, right? Right. The only problem is, Mou likes Zanetti in midfield - a lot. That means (and he has threatened this in his pre-game interview) we may see Cordoba back there. In my mind, that is a recipe for disaster. Maybe with Muntari standing in front of him and mopping up his mistakes, but even then - it scares the bejeezus out of me. We really should have looked for a left back on loan for the rest of the season. We may not have been able to get the best, but I find it difficult to believe we could not have found someone better than Cordoba.
And since we are talking about horrifying things: our whole starting back line (Lucio, Samuel, Maicon, Zanetti) is a booking away from suspension. Given our recent ...er... form, it seems highly unlikely we will escape un-cautioned. (why do I suddenly feel cursed again?)
So, providing Mou doens't throw all caution to the wind, the lineup may go a little like this:
Julio Cesar (please please please be ok)
Maicon Lucio Samuel Zanetti
Stankovic Cambiasso Muntari
And Eto'o better start earning that 10 million euro paycheck. It is time for him to put his sucking boots away and get the real ones.
The many moods of Mou.
Mou was typically wry and ironic in his pre-game presser: when a journalists asked him if the climate surrounding Inter would be a negative influence on the team. Mou replied: "We have already played in the snow, in the cold, in the sun, now the climate isn't too bad, it is 10-15 degrees, if it rains, it will only rain a little, the lawn at the San Siro is spectacular, they change it often, and the conditions of the field are optimal."
I know, when you watch the video, it sounds a bit like he completely missed the journalist's point. I, though, prefer to believe that it was his acerbic wit.
Then there was the whole badge issue. The scudetto was missing from his team vest. When a journalist asked him where it was, he laughed and said "Perhaps someone stole it." (Forse qualcuno l'ha rubato). Good stuff, good stuff.
Some Positive Affirmations:
- This team is better than last year's - probably better than the last 4 year's even.
- We are playing at home with the lion's share of 80,000 fans cheering the team on. That has to help a bit. According to La Gazzetta, more than 78,000 tickets have been sold. Add to that the masses of press and VIPs and the place is going to packed to the gills.
- This game is not for all the marbles. As Mou said, it is important, but maybe not as important as the return leg.
- At some point, it will have to our turn to have a little luck, right? Maybe this will be the time the ball actually goes in instead of hitting the post. Statistically, it is bound to happen sooner or later, and sooner is just as likely as later. Maybe not the best odds, but we need to cling to every little sliver of hope we can find.
- And the best news - Mou loves us, he really loves us.
I suppose we could always turn to prayer...
Oh Great and Powerful Calcio Gods. Please stop pooping on us so that
we may, in turn, stop being poopy...