Having seen Inter Milan’s chances of retaining the Scudetto suffer a setback with defeat by AC Milan on Saturday, Leonardo is expecting an immediate response from his players when they host FC Schalke 04 in the UEFA Champions Leage quarter-final first leg. The German side, winners of the UEFA Cup at San Siro in 1997 after beating Inter on penalties, arrive with a new man in charge in Ralf Rangnick, who has spent much of the build-up to the tie familiarising himself with his squad.
Leonardo, Inter coach
I know Schalke haven’t had many good results in the league, but they have in the Champions League so we must not underestimate them – they did not reach the quarter-finals by being lucky. Even without several injured players they have done well, finding a good balance on the pitch, as they have shown in the German Cup [reaching May’s final]. They’re having a good spell and morale is high.
Raúl González is symbolic of their good European campaign, he’s always a threat. He’s one of the all-time greats – he chose to leave Madrid for another country and is still dictating things.
The way we qualified has brought confidence, proving that we never give up. That’s what we want to keep doing – it doesn’t matter if we lost the derby on Saturday. I respect the criticism I have had since then but the first-minute goal made life complicated. We’re obviously disappointed, but I’m sure my players will react and, yes, I’ve never won a Champions League game at home [as a coach] but I’m not dwelling on it.
Ralf Rangnick, Schalke coach
The last [few] weeks haven’t been easy for Schalke, but in recent days the team has worked well together. You could see it in our last league game, even though tomorrow will be a completely different match. We will try to produce a good performance for the supporters. I saw the Milan derby and I know it’s never a nice thing to lose such a game. The supporters were disappointed but their team has good qualities. In any case, we have to focus on ourselves; we have to work as a team and try to get a good result.
I arrived at Schalke ten days ago, and before focusing on this game I had to study my team. My players played well on Friday − they proved they can do what I asked them to do. I tried to prepare my team for this game from Saturday, but we still have to see how Inter will play. The most important thing, though, is that we have to think about ourselves rather than our opponents.
Andrea Ranocchia (knee) and Cristian Chivu (calf) shook off injuries to start against Milan. Diego Milito was a second-half substitute, his first appearance since suffering a recurrence of a long-standing thigh problem on 6 February, though Leonardo says he has yet to decide whether to risk the Argentina striker from the start.
Christoph Metzelder broke his nose at FC St Pauli but could feature wearing a protective mask. The prognosis is less positive for Mario Gavranović (foot) and Peer Kluge (abdominal muscle strain), who suffered injuries on Friday. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (knee), Christoph Moritz (knee) and Christian Pander (toe, cold) are all sidelined.
With a fit Ranocchia and the returning Lucio, Inter should be much more sound defensively against Schalke than they were in the Milan derby at the weekend. Inter will create chances against Schalke the question for me is can Eto’o and Milito take them and take the pressure of the defence?
Score: Inter 2 Schalke 1
What do you think the score will be?