Well, this is it - the last home game of the season, and it is a biggy, too. If we are to control our own destiny, we must win this game. For their part, Chievo are in the spoiler position: comfortably mid-table, mathematically safe from the drop but not enough points to try for Europa and they play both the teams contending for the top spot. First us, then Roma. A sleepy defense, a keeper bauble, a mis-timed back pass - any number of errors could see Chievo decide this race. So Inter, look alive, 'cause we need to take all three points from this game if we want to keep the dream alive!
What: Inter v Chievo
When: Sunday, May 9, 3pm (6am pacific, 9am eastern) OUCH
Where: The San Siro in Lovely Milan, Italy
How to Watch: Live on Fox Soccer Channel (top billing baby), Live on RAI International, or find a stream: MyP2P, Rojadirecta, Ustream, and ATDHE.net
For the last two days, all the games will be played at the same time - at the crack of freaking DAWN for us here on the west coast. As it has worked so well for us in the past (and you dont know how much it pains me to say this), I will host a liveblog here on the site. Yep. 6AM on a Sunday Morning. You're welcome, Inter. Join me if you dare.
Inter and Chievo dont have much of a history together. Chievo is a relatively young team and they have only been in the Serie A for a few years. As such, Inter has only entertained Chievo 7 times at the San Siro. Of those, Inter has won 4, drawn 2 and lost 1. So pretty good odds - historically that is.
Last year, taking full points from Chievo was a real challenge - even at home! We went up early then just fell asleep, allowing them to equalize. If it wasn't for our Super Swede and his magic shooting boots we would not have won this game. (see the danger of not taking Chievo seriously?) His two late strikes saw Inter carry the day, 4-2. Highlights below:
Chievo used to have a blogger, but he seems to have gone AWOL or is otherwise busy. Maybe he will get to this game, but I sort of doubt it. So it looks like it is me or nothing. Chievo has some bad juju for Inter. It was during our away game to Verona that saw Cristian Chivu suffer that terrible head injury. He is back now, and except for the huge scar, none the worse for it. Hopefully we can exorcise any demons that may be lurking with a win on Sunday.
But back to Chievo
Chievo's home and away record is very similar, which is strange for mid-table teams. Often the reason they are midtable is that they do well at home but not so much on the road. In Chievo's case, it is a general malaise though, as they have won 6 games at home and 6 away. The only difference is, they are slightly more likely to draw at home (5 times) than on the road (3 times). Oh, and they have scored a few more goals at home (20 as opposed to 14). I suppose if anything, it shows that they are consistent. Most recently, they fell to Napoli at home after beating Fiorentina away (0-2, yikes). The month of April has been a bit of a departure for Chievo as up until that point, almost every one of their games were very low scoring. Unfortunately for them, it has worked both ways, though: not only has Chievo been scoring more goals, but they have been allowing more as well.
That 'stash always makes me giggle. It is so Castro Street circa 1985.
A quick look at when they concede goals shows they are most vulnerable in the first 15 minutes of the game and midway through the second half. Those are also times they tend to score goals so maybe they are not good at getting back to defend a quick counter. Definitely something to exploit.
Mimmo Di Carlo almost a full squad to choose from with only Mandelli (d), Morero (d), and Pinzi (c) out injured. Of the list, Pinzi is probably the biggest loss. Up until his injury last week, he had started all but 5 games for Chievo this season. Upfront, the danger man is Sergio Pellissier. He has 10 goals already and would like to add a couple more before the end of the season, I'm sure. Other notable players on this team are Mario Yepes (soon to be of Milan), who, as I recall, is a pretty decent defender even if he is a little long in the tooth; and Nicolas Frey (who I like to refer to as Frey Frere), brother to Sebastien Frey of Fiorentina.
"You rock." "No, YOU rock."
Mourinho has called up 19 players:
Goalkeepers: Toldo, Julio Cesar, Orlandoni.
Defenders: Zanetti, Maicon, Materazzi, Samuel, Chivu.
Midfielders: Stankovic, Quaresma, Thiago Motta, Muntari, Mariga, Cambiasso.
Strikers: Eto'o, Milito, Pandev, Balotelli, Arnautovic.
Cordoba, Lucio, Sneijder and Santon are injured while Krhin is playing with the Primavera squad in the first leg of their knockout tie against Empoli. Basically, this is a play-off round for the youth league scudetto (Inter finished first in their division), the Trofeo Giacinto Facchetti.
Looking at who is available, it is pretty clear that Materazzi and Samuel will start in defense. The rest is a bit of a mystery, though. La Gazzetta thinks Mou will go with the 4-2-3-1:
Maicon Materiazzi (yikes) Samuel Zanetti
Eto'o Pandev Balotelli
Well, one thing for sure, no one would call that formation defensive. My only problem with it is that Marco (as much as I love him) is no Lucio. I worry that with all those players pressing forward, he will be left out and get totally smoked. Starting Zanetti at the back does allow for more flexibility later on - Chivu can come on for Pandev, Zanetti moves to the center right, and the whole formation slips easily into a 4-3-3. Presto chango! Boy, it sure is nice having players who can play more than one position competently.
So, as I am sure most of you probably already know, Mou has been referred to the National Disciplinary Committee for the joke he made after the Coppa match.
"Now we have to play two games that are not simple: Chievo team is very difficult, dangerous on the counterattack, while the Sienna has more quality than its ranking. Then, if it is true that their president would be happy if they can beat Inter and will pay the same [reward] he would pay if they were to save the team, surely this will be a motivation for the players. And maybe Rome, which today does not pay the bonus for winning the the Italian Cup, could be available to give more money to Siena. We know it will be difficult until the end and I will not talk about the treble or Champions. "
And for those statements about Siena and Roma - a joke, mind you, this is the response from the FIGC:
"The Federal Prosecutor has referred to the National Disciplinary Committee for violation of Article. 5, paragraph 1, of the Code of Sports Justice Jose Mario dos Santos Mourinho, coach of FC Society International SpA, have expressed, through an interview and videotaped statements published on the media, reviews damaging the reputation of individuals and companies operating under federal and especially the managers of the Company AS Roma SpA, shadowing also doubts about the correctness of the season due to the work of these, with reference to the last day of the championship race SIENA-INTER "for violation of Articles. 4, paragraph 2, and 5, paragraph 2, of Athletic Code of Justice, for strict liability was referred to the company FC Internazionale Milano SpA, for acts alleged to its members."
A little background on this is that last Tuesday (May 5), La Gazzetta reported on a radio interview with Davide Buccioni, an executive with Siena. Buccioni said: "The president Massimo Mezzaroma has guaranteed a prize of two million euros to stop Inter. I want to appeal to the Roma fans: our players will fight to the death until the last minute of stoppages. "
Well, apparently it is a no-no to give bonuses or special prizes for specific games. Later that day, Siena issued a statement where they said:
"- The news was disclosed yesterday is the result of a misinterpretation of words spoken by someone external to AC Siena, which plays no management role.
- A. C. Siena has never promised nor promise any special prizes for a game, or practice not permitted by federal regulations.
- President Massimo Mezzaroma, shortly after his inauguration, promised the team a prize if they achieved salvation, to be paid in case of staying in Serie A next season. And in respect of their fans and the correctness of the season, has only ever asked the team to do its utmost in every match and to honor the season until the end, trying to get the best finish possible.”
So you see, this has been in the news for a couple of day - Mourinho didn't just pull it out of thin air. Even Mezzaroma said it was a joke and Mourinho should not have been referred. Well, this new ruling has not gone down well at Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Moratti is against making a big stink (or so the paper says) but did say:
"the severity shown by the Federation with Mourinho, although not new, contrasts starkly with the bonhomie [my translation, literally goodism] found after the Lazio-Inter: No action taken in relation to allegations of the Romans involving the Lazio Inter game which have actually created a dangerous climate in view of the Italian Cup final. I wonder because in that circumstance the Fed chose not to intervene but this time it took the referral. "
The question remains, then, why is it that Sensi and Prada were not referred after they both implied that Lazio had thrown the match against Inter? Does not that, more than Mourinho's joke, cast "doubts about the correctness of the season?" The paper suggests it is because Moratti didn't press the subject with the FIGC while Roma is out for Inter blood - at all costs. I understand that Moratti is trying to keep things as calm as possible for the squad ahead of these last three games. I also understand his preference not to sink to their level, but when is enough enough? It will be interesting to see how the disciplinary committee handles Totti's red card.
Dont hate him because he is beautiful - hate him because his team probably kicked your team's ass. Ti amo, Lo Special.
As for the little tiff Ranieri tried to get into with Mourinho today, Oh good lord. I dont have the strength to translate his comments from Ranieri's original statement right now so I cant speak to what he really said or didn't say. I can say that Football Italia is a sensationalist rag that puts words into people's mouths. From what I gather, Ranieri said some not-so-nice things about Mourinho in his pregame presser today (strange, as Inter and Roma are not playing each other).
In rebuttal, Mourinho issued a statement on Inter's web page.
In this statement, Mou recounted how he prepared himself and the squad for the Coppa game (meticulously). He wrote about how he views his players (as professionals, not children), and that's about it. The only mention of Ranieri specifically is in the last couple sentences:
"I have never said I'm a phenomenon, but it's certainly not my fault if, when I arrived at Chelsea in 2004 and asked why they were changing Ranieri, they replied that they wanted to win and that it would never have happened with him. I'm not to blame for this."
Well, whatever Mou does before games, it must be at least partially right as according to a survey made during the 73rd annual congress of the International Sports Press Association, he is the best trainer in the world. Hooray!
At the meeting, 200 journalists from 96 countries were asked: "Who is the best trainer in the world?"
The results were:
Mourinho - 36%
Ferguson - 20%
Hiddink - 13.3%
Capello - 9.3%
Lippi - 8%
Dunga - 6.7%
Bielsa - 4%
Van Gaal - 2.7%.
I am sure they just forgot to put Ranieri's name on the list. I am sure, if they had, he would have totally smoked them all. Yep.
Anyway, this is a big game tomorrow and I hope that the boys take it very very seriously. Anything less than a win means the dream is dead. So, lets all keep the positive vibes flowing - happy thoughts, gonna win - and I will see you here first thing in the morning (groan).
The things I do for this team