Inter Milan have been revived in 2011 under Leonardo but as the coach takes charge of the holders in the Champions League for the first time, against the side the Nerazzurri beat in last season’s final, he admits that European football is another thing entirely. Bayern Munich are also in good form going into Wednesday’s round of 16 first leg and Louis van Gaal says the return of the likes of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry has turned their season.
Leonardo, Inter coach
The league is one thing, the Champions League is something else. We have some options, not as many as in the league, but still a few options for tomorrow’s game. I saw the Madrid final last season and I was supporting Inter because they were the Italian team. I was happy to see Inter win, even though I was working for their city rivals.
The team have reacted well after a difficult time and now we are very motivated for this game. Every team have strengths and weaknesses. In the Champions League there are big players, big teams and big goals. It’s as if there’s more desire to play in this competition. The games are more open and I like this attacking mentality. We are the defending champions and we can beat anyone. We will fight with all our strength and we have already proved we can react against any difficulties – this gives me belief. We will perfom like champions.
Louis van Gaal, Bayern coach
We can’t compare a final with the round of 16. The team have changed, some players have arrived, some others left. Maybe some players are still thinking about that game, but everybody knows we want to win and last season’s final has nothing to do with that. After [José] Mourinho left I don’t think Inter changed that much. Some players are still injured, some recovered but that’s not important, probably the only big change is the coach. The most important thing is that they did not change how they played. If you watched the final or if you watch Inter playing every week, they play defensively.
If I’m the coach of a team, I always want three or four creative players in my team and I don’t want them to get injured. We were missing some of our quality players in the first part of the season but now things have changed – with them back we’re doing better, you can see it in the results we’re getting. Someone says our back line has problems, but I don’t agree. Just look at the statistics.
Diego Milito, the double goalscorer in last May’s final, is out with a thigh problem but Bayern old boy Lúcio – one caution from a suspension like Cristian Chivu – has returned from a similar injury. Wesley Sneijder, rested at the weekend along with Lúcio, is also available and in midfield Esteban Cambiasso and Dejan Stanković are finally 100% fit.
Of their January signings, Giampaolo Pazzini and another ex-Bayern man, Christoph Knasmüller, are ineligible but Houssine Kharja, Andrea Ranocchia and Yuri Nagatomo have been registered
Ivica Olić remains a long-term absentee after knee surgery but Diego Contento (stress fracture) and Rouven Sattelmaier (bicep) are back in training. Mario Gomez has overcome an ankle complaint while Toni Kroos was a weekend substitute following a metatarsal injury sustained in December. Both are one booking from a ban, as is Danijel Pranjić. Thomas Kraft was substituted on Saturday with a head injury but is now fit.
Since the group stage, Boy Deul and Luiz Gustavo have been added to the squad.
This is a really tough game to predict because of the injuries that both teams have. Inter have much weaker defensively this season, than they were last year. The problem for Inter is that without Milito and the often injured Sneijder, Inter cannot outscore teams this season also.
Bayern have also struggled with injuries all season, but they are starting to get players healthy and Robben, Ribery and Mario Gomez are all expected to play in Milan.
I expect two very tight games and I would not be surprised to see the winner progress on the away goals rule.
Score: Inter 2 Bayern 1
What do you think the score will be?