Here we go, the third spoke in our quest for glory has begun again. The Coppa Italia may seem like a bit of a throw away tournament, but I think it is good fun and a great chance for some of our young up and comers to see a little pitch time. First up is Livorno, and, while their Serie A record may be a bit dire, they pose a real threat: our boys are running on fumes. Plus, even though I want this trophy (and the keen little patch for our jerseys), the team may not be taking this quite as seriously as our other two tournaments. Inter has a very real shot at the scudetto and the Champions League is not technically impossible. For Livorno, though, the Coppa may be their only chance to win something this season. I suspect they will be out for blood.
What: Inter v Livorno, Coppa Italia (TIM Cup) Round of 16
Where: San Siro, Milan
When: Wednesday, December 16, 9pm local time (noon pacific, 3pm eastern)
How to Watch: I dont think any channel outside of Italy will be showing this. I think your best bet is to find a stream: MyP2P, Rojadirecta, Ustream, and ATDHE.net.
Usually I put a little video of our past glories here but Inter and Livorno have never met in the Coppa Italia before. This tie is a blank slate - this will even be their first trip to Milan this season. You will all have to amuse yourselves with this instead:
Livorno are not having the best of seasons so far in the Serie A. The are hovering just above the relegation zone with 15 points and have only won 4 games this whole season. One of those wins came just last week away to Catania which could go either way for Inter: either they will be pumped and confident or tired and mentally drained. As a bonus, they managed to beat Catania without their star striker, Cristiano Lucarelli. He will, though, be available for this Coppa match. Tavano and defender Fabio Galante (who played for Inter many many moons ago) are both still out with injury.
They have only scored three goals away from home, while allowing 10. Not so good. Still, I believe they will be highly motivated and will probably play defensively and try for a goal on the break. Our defense has been a bit suspect from time to time, even more so with our suspensions. They have already beaten Sampdoria to get to us, and, while they may go down in the end, they will certainly go down swinging.
Mourinho has called up 19 players:
Portieri: Toldo, Julio Cesar, Orlandoni;
Difensori: Lucio, Maicon, Cristian Chivu, Donati*;
Centrocampisti: Stankovic, Thiago Motta, Sneijder, Muntari, Vieira, Krhin, Cambiasso, Stevanovic*;
Attaccanti: Eto'o, Suazo, Milito, Balotelli.
Samuel, Santon, and Quaresma are all still injured. There is real trouble in defense as Materazzi, Cordoba, and Zanetti are all disqualified for this match. Mourinho has been forced to turn to our youth squad and hence we see Giulio Donati on the call up list. Stevanovic is apparently a trequartista. As we all can see, still no Marko Arnautovic. I have no idea why he is not there, but I suppose we should all trust in Mou - he must have his reasons.
As for lineups, Mou has already said that Balotelli, Milito and Eto'o will start in attack, while we dont really have a whole lot of choice but play Donati in defense. That is, unless Cambiasso drops back. Yikes. Either way, it will be a bit nervy back there.
Midfielder Alan Stevanovic may get a shot tomorrow. What is it with midfielders and bald? The commentators already have enough trouble keeping Cuchu and Sneijder straight - this will really confuse them.
As scheduled, Mourinho had his press conference today - although apparently only the Inter channel and Sky Sport attended. I suppose the other journalists were trying to "send a message" to Inter and Mourinho, but I bet he was pleased as punch to see that mostly empty room. Somehow, I doubt that the Italian sports media will stop covering Inter so by not attending the conference, they were only hurting themselves (and their employers). Tee hee. Also, with all the hostiles out of the picture, the only questions were soft balls lobbed in by people on the Inter payroll. There was no one in the room to ask Mourinho any difficult questions or really call him to task. Once again, advantage Jose.
For Mourinho's official statement of what went down between him and journalist Andrea Ramazzotti, check out the English translation of his press conference today. It is not really pertinent to the upcoming game, so I am not going to say anthing more about it here. If you like, we can do a more in-depth look at Mourinho and his media relations later. For a real hoot, check out the Italian full transcript of the interview.
Of course, given the tawdriness of the Ramazzotti affair, only half a question was actually asked about the game. Mourinho's response:
"In the game against Livorno Inter will have one foot forward and one back because we have played Livorno in the championship and it was not easy, because Livorno has eliminated a finalist team from last year's Tim Cup, because Livorno is improving, because they have won their last game against Catania in a relegation struggle. I always think that small clubs see the Coppa as the possibility to do something extraordinary, to win a title or get to a final and play in a European competition. Turnover or no turnover? It will be mandatory for Zanetti, Cordoba and Materazzi, all are disqualified but today I read in some newspaper that they would play from the start, but perhaps some journalists with little attention has forgotten that they cannot play in the Cup game, while others will start on the bench... There are two Primavera players that I like, Stevanovic and Donati, and tomorrow they will surely have their chance because the convened are only 18, including also the third keeper, for these boys, either on the field or on the bench."
So there. After something like 15 questions in a press conference, all we get about the actual game to come is that 1) Livorno will be tough, and 2) the boys will at least make the bench. Also, note the subtle dig at the press - at least he is consistent.
Krhin has made a speedy recovery from his ankle injury. Reports were, he was out until the new year. Guess not.
I dont care what anyone says, the Coppa is not a throw-away tournament. There is no reason to play sports unless you are playing to win (that is the point of the game, after all). I agree, it is also the correct place for some rotation players to get some space, but not at the expense of the outcome. I am sure Mourinho is fielding the best possible team he has at his disposal. Would I be more comfortable if Materazzi or Cordoba were on that list? Heck yes! Also, how sad is it that Zanetti has to miss a game? I know he is not above the rules, but this suspension brings and amazing record of continuous play to an end. It will be interesting to see who gets the armband tomorrow.
I know I glossed over quite a bit, but dammit! It is the holiday season and I have simply stacks to do around the house (those trees dont decorate themselves!). I promise, I will revisit Ramazzotti-gate later in the week... after I get all the Christmas cards out... and finalize the menu... and wrap a stack of presents... and finish the freaking shopping. But I will get to it.
Look how much fun we had in 2006. What do you all say we do it again?