It’s top of the Prem Vs top of Serie ‘A’, it’s Mourinho Vs Ancelotti, it’s the Blues Vs the black and blues. It’s finally here, Inter Milan Vs Chelsea in the first leg of our last sixteen knockout round of the Champions League.
Ancelotti – who reportedly doesn’t get on with The Special One – will be in familiar territory as he returns to the stadium he managed rivals AC in for eight years, departing nine months ago.
Inter’s manager is obviously familiar amongst the Chelsea faithful, being the man who guided us to back to back Premier Leagues, our first top flight titles in half a century. After his abrupt departure, Mourinho took the rest of the season off, before joining the reigning Serie ‘A’ champions.
The weekend saw just our second away league win since November, a 2-0 win over Wolves courtesy of a Didier Drogba brace. Petr Cech was on fine form, and knows he needs to be again in the hostile atmosphere of the Giuseppe Meazza.
Frank Lampard missed the weekends clash due to a virus, but has travelled to Milan and is expected to start. There is a mini full back crisis though, with Ashley Cole joined on the sidelines by Zhirkov, Bosingwa is still out and his countryman Ferreira is not registered for European action. Deco and Essien are out in the midfield. But Belletti and Alex have both travelled with the team.
Cech will be expected to start in goal, the full backs are anyones guess, will Malouda be risked there? A position where he will potentially be exposed. Ivanovic is a likely candidate for the spot, with Belletti as the right back. John Terry and Riccy Carvalho will have Sammy Eto’o and Diego Milito to contain.
With a lack of alternatives, Mikel could well start as the holding midfielder, with Lampard, Ballack and Malouda the candidates for the centre of the diamond, Joey Cole could find himself at the apex of the jewel. Ballack’s Champions League experience should see him start, whether it will be alongside Lamps, at the tip, or even holding at the bottom is likely to only be known by Ancelotti. Drogba is in fine form and will be hard not to start, with Anelka partnering him as usual.
Inter’s preparation wasn’t ideal for them, having their second goalless draw in a row, and having both centre backs sent off in the first half, as well as Eto’o booked for diving. Mourinho’s handcuff action in response to this has put him in more bother with the Italian F.A.
We’ve never played Inter competitively, but did beat them 2-0 in Los Angeles in a pre-season friendly. Three times we’ve played AC Milan in the San Siro, twice in the 1966 Fairs Cup, and again in October 1999 when Dennise Wise scored a rather good goal. Whilst Carlo Ancelotti used to manage their neighbours AC, the Nerazurri were twice managed by our neighbour Fulhams manager, Roy Hodgson.
Inter have won the last four Serie ‘A’ titles, partly due to the max fixing scandal in Italy prior to the 2006 World Cup, which relegated their main competition and saw AC docked points. They call he stadium the Giuseppe Meazza, in tribute to a man considered to be one of the greatest Italian footballers of all time, who played for both Milan clubs, but mainly Inter.
Predicted Team: Cech, Ivanovic, Terry, Carvalho, Belletti, Mikel, Lampard, Ballack, J. Cole, Drogba, Anelka.
Predicted Score: 1-1 (Drogba and Eto’o)