Inter's season starts in earnest tomorrow as we take on Hajduk Split in the first-leg match of the UEFA Europa League third qualifying round. Boy, what a mouthful that is. If anything was ever an impetus to finish better on the table it is having to start when most self-respecting clubs are just getting back from vacation. Ready or not (and I desperately hope it is the former and not the later), Inter need to get their minds back in the game and show these Croatians that even though this is the Europa League and not the rarefied Champions League air that Inter is more accustomed to breathing, we are in it to win it. Or at least, we better be!
So, these are pretty sweet digs, dontcha think? I am still learning the interface, though, so you all may need to cut me a little slack when it comes to formatting. I know that I have more sophisticated tools for making this place look pretty, but I am not entirely sure how to use them all (for instance, like how to add more than one photo to a post). I'll figure it out, though, and then we will be cooking with fire!
But back to the game.
Hajduk Split v Inter Milano, First-leg match of the third qualifying round for the UEFA Europa League
August 2, Thursday, 8:45pm local time (11:45am pacific, 2:45pm eastern)
No international TV, streaming it will have to be.
I don't know if we are quite ready to live chat this game. Maybe it will come off, but if it doesn't, we are sorry and check back next game.
A BIT ABOUT THE OTHER GUYS
Hajduk Split comes to this game with a qualifier already under thier belts: they beat Latvian Skonto FC 2:1 on aggregate. They won the first leg at home 2-0, then lost the second 1-0 in Riga.
According to Wikipedia, they came in second in the Croatian football league and are ranked 162nd by UEFA (as opposed to Inter who is 7th).
And that is just about all I could find out about Hajduk. Unfortunately, we are almost as mysterious at this point.
A BIT ABOUT US
As expected, Maicon did not make the trip to Split. Strama brought 20 others, though:
Goalkeepers: Handanovic, Castellazzi, Belec;
Defenders: Zanetti, Silvestre,
Ranocchia*, Samuel, Chivu, Mbaye, Jonathan, Nagatomo;
Midfielders: Sneijder, Guarin, Mudingayi, Cambiasso, Benassi;
Strikers: Coutinho, Palacio, Milito, Livaja.
* Ranocchia didn't come to Split after all. He has been subpoenaed by Bari's attorney in the calcioscomesse hearings. The game in question is Salernitana - Bari from May 23, 2009.
I have no idea how Stramaccioni will line them up, but I bet Handanovic will start in goal, with Palacio and Sneijder somewhere in the fronty-middleish. We dont have a whole lot of options up front, so even though Milito hasn't really looked ready yet, I bet he plays as well. Coutinho and Guarin have been looking sharpish, so I hope they see some pitch time, although I am not sure how Strama will work both Sneijder and Coutinho into the same line-up. The defense is a mystery to me. Mbaye has been looking ok, but he is like 18 and I dont know if he is really ready to play against grown-up men fighting for their European lives. Silvestre has the experience but doesn't really have the rapport with anyone to partner with yet. Chivu? Samuel? Sure! Why not? (except Chivu is still a bit of a walking yellow card)
I just dont know!
UPDATE: In training today he tested the 4-3-2-1:
And if that is how he goes, we may have one very unhappy Dutch Boy to deal with. Sneijder was very clear last season that he didn't like playing wide and preferred to be behind the strikers. The thought (apparently), though, is that this gives more defensive cover for our not quite there yet back line. Hopefully Sneijder can suck it up and get the job done. I am not a fan of the pouty, tantrum-prone Sneijder we saw last season under Gasp and CR. I want the Euro's one instead.
In some respects, it doesn't really matter who we field tomorrow. The whole squad has less than a month's preparation together, something Strama was quick to point out in his presser today. Even so, he said that Inter are in Split to win:
"We're not here just to make up the numbers. We'll honour this competition with everything we have, because this is the European football we have at the moment."
As an interesting little aside, Livaja came to Inter from Hajduk's youth academy - what a small world.
Ok, I cant stand to write any more text with no pictures to break it up so I guess this will have to be it. This game isn't entirely do or die, there is a return tie after all, but an away goal or two would be nice. A win would be outstanding, a draw manageable... really, I just dont want to lose. But this is a new adventure so you just never do know.