Uefa Champions League, First knock-out round, first leg
Venue: San Siro Date: Tuesday, 24 February, 2009
Manchester United are likely to field an unfamiliar central defensive partnership for Tuesday’s Champions League tie against Inter Milan. Nemanja Vidic is suspended, while Jonny Evans limped out of Saturday’s 2-1 win over Blackburn with an ankle injury.
Inter coach Jose Mourinho has similar, if less extreme, problems to negotiate. Argentine defender Walter Samuel is unlikely to make his starting line-up after missing the weekend’s 2-1 victory over Bologna with a calf injury.
Six defenders travelled with the United squad to Italy for the opening leg of the first knockout round at the San Siro, with two of them carrying injuries. The holders are without Gary Neville and Wes Brown through injury, while John O’Shea has a sore heel.
Fabio Da Silva is set to get the nod at the back, according to manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
“Obviously we have some injuries and we won’t know until Tuesday (whether the players will be fit). O’Shea did a light session on his own and Johnny Evans didn’t train. Everyone else who travelled trained,” he said. “With Gary Neville and Wes Brown injured and Nemanja Vidic suspended for the game it is a worrying moment for us. I hope one will be OK, probably O’Shea. But that leaves us with a problem at right-back, probably young Da Silva (will play). I wish we were in a better position tomorrow defensively in terms of availability but that happens.”
With Italy international Marco Matterazzi also struggling to recover in time for the Italian champions, the heart of their backline will be selected from Ivan Cordoba, Cristian Chivu and Nicolas Burdisso.
Mourinho’s in-form side sit nine points clear at the top of Serie A after securing their latest victory through goals from Esteban Cambiasso and Mario Balotelli.
Former United midfielder David Beckham played against Mourinho’s side for city rivals AC Milan two weeks ago and the 33-year-old has pinpointed Inter’s strikeforce as their main threat.
“They have got good players all the way through their squad but I think the forwards are strong, they are quick and they can hold the ball well and they are not frightened so if you control them United have got a chance,” Beckham said.
“United have also got some players that can win games and also the defence is exceptional at the minute so that’s why it is going to be so tough.”
The England international backed United to beat the Italian side and revealed he may even speak to Sir Alex Ferguson prior to the match.
BIG MATCH STATS
Internazionale and Manchester United have met twice before in European competition. 10 years ago, the clubs met at the quarter-final stage of the CL with United progressing on a 3-1 aggregate. Current squad members, Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes (United) and Javier Zanetti (Inter) all played in both matches.
Inter have hosted English clubs on 13 occasions, winning six, drawing four and losing three. Inter are yet to beat an English club in Italy in four fixtures in the CL.
The Red Devils have won on just three of their 15 visits to Italy, drawing twice and losing 10.
Mikael Silvestre, Laurent Blanc and Juan Sebastian Veron all played in the CL for both Inter Milan and Manchester United. Paul Ince also played for both clubs but not in the CL. He was transferred from Manchester United to Internazionale in 1995.
Playing in the CL knockout phase for the seventh time. Their best performance was a semi-final appearance in 2002-03. Inter won the Champions Cup in 1964 and 1965 and have also triumphed three times in Uefa Cup finals.
Lost their last two CL matches and are without a win in three.
Conceded 299 goals in all European competitions.
Reached the knockout stages of the CL for the 12th time, one behind the record of Real Madrid. The current holders of the CL and also won the competition in 1999. Their other European titles came in the Champions Cup in 1968 and the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1991.
Been eliminated at the last 16 stage twice, by FC Porto in 2004 and AC Milan a year later. Porto’s head coach in 2004 was Jose Mourinho.
Knocked out of Europe by Italian opposition on six occasions (AC Milan four, Juventus two).
This match is United’s 200th in Champions Cup/CL. Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and AC Milan have already reached this milestone. United can also record their 50th draw in the competition.
Drawn their last three CL matches but are unbeaten in 19, a record equalling streak.
KEY PLAYER NOTES
Inter’s Dejan Stankovic can equal the record for CL matches played by a Serb. He has played 61, one fewer than Predrag Djordjevic (Olympiacos, 62 matches).
Stankovics’ team mates Maicon and Javier Zanetti are the only players from either side to have played every minute of this season’s CL.
Manchester United leading Premier League scorer, Cristiano Ronaldo (12 goals), is yet to find the back of the next in this season’s CL.
Ryan Giggs (108), Paul Scholes (104) and David Beckham (104) are the most experienced British players ever in European competition.
Nemanja Vidic is suspended for this match after receiving a red card in the Fifa Club World Cup final in December