Ok, so last week was totally kick-ass: Juventus - totally beat them... Barcelona - totally beat them too. For all you non-Inter fans who have been a little cranky - I totally understand: you were all looking forward to some schadenfreude, but instead of being distracted from all your problems by other people's misfortune, Inter's total awesomeness just made everything that much worse. Well, you may all have your chance this weekend as there is no time for resting on one's laurels. Nope, we are right back into it - this time against a team in full battle against the horrors of relegation. Atalanta come to the San Siro with only one thing on their minds: la salvezzia and doing anything it takes to reach it. Inter is a mixed bag: they are exhausted but elated. Plus, there is Camp Nou staring them in the face and the 40 years of pent-up hopes and dreams weighing heavily on their shoulders. Confidence, though, can give wings to tired legs and Mou's never-say-die attitude may give the boys what it takes to haul all three points out of this fixture.
What: Inter V Atalanta
Where: Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, San Siro, Milan
When: Saturday, April 24, 6pm local time (9am pacific, noon eastern)
How to Watch: if you have RAI International, it is being broadcast live. There is Live PPV on FoxSoccer.tv, or find a stream: MyP2P, Rojadirecta, Ustream, and ATDHE.net
As I recall, Atalanta's last trip to the San Siro was all about two things: getting Ibra his golden boot and honoring Figo. Figo retired at the end of last season and his last competitive game was this game against Atalanta. We had already mathematically won the scudetto a couple weeks before, and although we were going to do the official presentation after the game, there where still a couple loose threads. Atalanta did their best to make the game exciting - even going ahead at one point. In all, the game saw 7 goals, including a double for Ibra which crowned him capocannoniere.
Lino Mutti has called up 22 players:
Consigli, Capelli, Manfredini, Bellini, Amoruso, Peluso, De Ascentis, Guarente, Caserta, Chevanton, Valdes, Radovanovic, Padoin, Pellegrino, Coppola, Ceravolo, Doni, Volpi, Bianco, Ferreira Pinto, Tiribocchi, Rossi.
Apparently there is some question as to who will start in goal tomorrow - a late fitness test will decide. Still, La Gazzatta things Mutti will play:
As it stands right now, Atalanta are going down. They sit at 18th place with 34 points. Still, only 2 points separate them from 17th place Bologna and salvation. They are coming off a startling (for me) win against Fiorentina last week which has no doubt helped the team believe they can pull themselves out of the bottom three. I hate playing teams like this, their desperation makes them dangerous. Still, they have a disastrous away record, having lost 12 out of 17 games on the road. Clearly, travel does not agree with them.
Simone Tiribocchi has had a good season with the Bergamasti - scoring 10 goals so far this season. He scored a cracker against Fiorentina last week and I have no doubt that if given a chance, he will cause all sorts of problems for us.
For more on Atalanta, be sure to check out Jae's preview on the newly resurrected Atalanta board.
Some 2000 fans came to cheer the boys on today.
Mourinho has called up 22 players:
Goalkeepers: Julio Cesar, Orlandoni, Belec.
Defenders: Cordoba, Zanetti, Lucio, Maicon, Materazzi, Samuel, Chivu.
Midfielders: Stankovic, Quaresma, Thiago Motta, Sneijder, Muntari, Krhin, Mariga, Cambiasso.
Strikers: Eto'o, Milito,
UPDATE: Balotelli had a meeting with Moratti and I guess to avoid hostility during the Atalanta game, Balotelli has gone home. In a phrase, this sucks.
Toldo and Santon are injured. Maicon trained apart but looks to be ready for Saturday. Pandev is nursing and injury, and while he is not ready for Atalanta, he is expected to recover in time for Barcelona. He and his wife also just had a son yesterday. Filippo is their first child and everyone is doing well. Congratulations Pandev family! Balotelli is on the list, as Mou said he would be - shirt throwing or no. He has apologized, sort of, saying:
"I apologize to everybody for my gesture on Tuesday evening. I lost my head when I came on the pitch and heard the fans whistling and the coach shouting. I lost it and then I removed my shirt to vent my rage. I am sorry I couldn't control the tension and the frustration that has been wearing me out for months. I want to make it clear that I am not angry with the fans, let alone those in the Curva. They have always supported me when the others were booing me. I want Inter to win everything for them. As long as I wear the Inter shirt I will do everything to honour it. I am going through one of the most difficult moments of my life. I am exasperated but I was wrong to let off steam in that way. With the help of my agent and the people who love me, I hope I can now resolve the problems that I have with the club and several of my team-mates."
Even though you make it hard sometimes, I still love you.
According to an attendee of the open training today, Mario was generally well received by most of the fans who cheered and sung for him. There were some bad apples who sought to give Balotelli grief, but it seems they were quieted and their banners dealt with by the rest of the fans. Mario was seen joking with his teammates and generally getting on with things. Ok then, some good news at least. The conspiracy-minded fans see a parallel between Mario's behavior and Ibra's towards the end of last season (see Inter v Lazio). Both strangely and publicly antagonized the ultras and both have the particularly odious Raiola as an agent. These fans suggest that the shirt-throwing episode may have been orchestrated by Raiola to facilitate (shall we say) a sale this summer. I suppose we will all see in the coming months. Although Moratti says he is not interested in letting Balo go, he is being linked with every club and their uncle.
As for the line-up. Who knows?
Mou could do a little rotation by starting Materazzi and Cordoba in defense, and Stankovic instead of Sneijder in the midfield (especially as Deki is suspended for the CL game), but he could just as easily go the other way. We all hope that Milito gets a little rest, but Mou has already shown that he is not willing to sacrifice one competition for another. I will leave it to you all to try and guess the formation, because Mou is beyond me.
As I said above, these relegation teams scare me. Desperation can do strange things to a person, including bring out previously untapped wells of talent. What I am hoping for is a relatively low-speed game that allows the team to keep their hands in it but not expend too much energy - perhaps a little something like the Bologna game earlier in the month. What I am afraid of is that Atalanta will come to Milan with relatively fresh legs and a mission. They could definitely take some point from this fixture if we let them. The squad needs to get past whatever bad blood there may be over the whole Balotelli incident because the only hope we have of ending this season with silverware is if everyone pulls together. Well, that and we must never take any game or any team for granted. Just because this team has only won 2 games on the road doesn't mean that by this time Sunday morning it cant be 3. Our season is balanced on a razor's edge right now - anything but full concentration and determination could easily see us fall, fatally cutting ourselves in the process.
C'mon team - lets go out there, take care of business, scores some goals, keep a clean sheet, and generally dominate this game so we can focus on next Wednesday and the huge can of Kick-ass Barcelona is preparing for us.
Remembering Figo's last game: