What: UEFA Champions League – Group A
Who: Inter (1st; 4 points) vs Tottenham Hotspur (2nd; 4 points)
When: Wednesday 20th October, 2010, at 19:45 UK Time
Where: Giuseppe Meazza, Milan, Italy
Making a Statement of Intent
Inter may still be missing Jose Mourinho, but Rafael Benitez is keeping the club ticking along nicely. The former Liverpool boss might not be top of the pops in Serie A, but Inter are not too far behind Lazio and, with the best squad in Italy, are widely tipped to defend their title successfully. Europe however, is another beast, a different animal that, despite being tamed by Mourinho last season, is liable to bite the Nerazzurri hard if they dare to dream passage through to the final at Wembley will be easy.
Benitez’s shining light is Samuel Eto’o. The Cameroon star has shrugged off Mourinho’s departure, determined to continue producing the goods for the Nerazzurri. Eto’o has bagged six goals in Inter’s last five games, looking lethal whenever he gets the chance. Again, at the weekend, it was Eto’o who handed Benitez the three points in what could have been a potential banana skin at Cagliari. The strike was all the sweater for the former Barcelona hitman after Cagliari fans subjected him to a stream of rascist abuse.
Living the Champions League Dream
Games like this, against the European Champions, in their own backyard, was the motivation which led Spurs to work so hard to grab a Champions League spot in the first place. And the London side have not looked out of place amongst the continent’s elite. However, Inter do represent a step up from Werder Bremen and FC Twente, who have provided the opposition thus far. Encouragingly for manager Harry Redknapp, Spurs are playing possession football of the highest standard at the moment – and in Europe, keeping possession is the name of the game.
However, with Spurs’ Tom Huddleston hailing the chance to play at the San Siro as the fulfilment of a "childhood dream", the Premier League side must ensure they do not forget the task at hand and become overawed by the occasion. A weekend win at Fulham means Spurs will make the journey in good heart, but given Redknapp’s side have conceded in both Champions League games so far, the chances are they will have to score to get anything out of the match.
Inter 4-0 Werder Bremen (29/09; Champions League)
Inter 0-0 Juventus (03/10; Serie A)
Cagliari 0-1 Inter (17/10; Serie A)
Tottenham Hotspur 4-1 FC Twente (29/09; Champions League)
Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Aston Villa (02/10; Premier League)
Fulham 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur (16/10; Premier League)
Inter: Goran Pandev; Diego Milito (doubt); McDonald Maringa; Esteban Cambiasso; David Suazo
Tottenham Hotspur: Ledley King (doubt); Younes Kaboul (doubt); Rafael van der Vaart (suspended); Jermain Defoe; Michael Dawson; Jamie O’Hara; Jonathan Woodgate
Players to watch
Inter – Samuel Eto’o: The Cameroon striker has always been considered ideal for English football; quick, strong, lethal in front of goal, Eto’o has everything to be a success in England. In both Spain and now Italy, Eto’o has shown his quality and Premier League opponents will make ideal prey here. In-form and scoring for fun, the Inter striker will pose a huge threat to Spurs.
Tottenham Hotspur – Gareth Bale: The Welshman is enjoying a stellar season at White Hart Lane and starting to live up to his potential as the next big thing. This has not gone unnoticed by sides on the continent and Inter could well make special arrangements. Nevertheless, Bale has the potential to really hurt Inter.
Inter are not yet firing as they used to under Jose Mourinho, but neverthless remain lethal opponents. This clash could well decide the winners of Group A and as such both sides will know its importance. Spurs are unlikely to be able to keep Inter at bay for 90 minutes, but have enough power of their own to breach the Italians’ backline. Nevertheless, this match feels like a narrow Inter win. Inter 2-1 Spurs.