"Dovrà vincere, neanche pareggiare; vincere". -- Jose Mourinho
Yep, its Champions League time again (Hooray?) and this time they are coming to us. The recently crowned champions of Russia, Rubin Kazan, are coming to Milan to see who will get to continue in this competition and who will suffer the humiliating fate of the Europa League (shudder). No matter what eastern backwater they come from, Rubin Kazan is a good team, a really good team. Remember the Barca game in Milan? Well this one is going to be harder. At that point, a win would have been nice, but it wasn't crucial. This time, it is win or go home. Yikes.
What: Internazionale Milano v Rubin Kazan, Champions League Matchday 6
Where: San Siro, Milan
When: Wednesday, December 9, 8:45 local time (11:45am pacific, 2:45pm eastern)
How to Watch: Live on Fox Soccer, PPV through UEFA ($9.98), or try to find a stream (MyP2P, Rojadirecta, Ustream, and ATDHE.net). For the truly desperate, there is the Live Game feature on the UEFA web page.
Ok, I admit, I took a little poetic license with the intro. According to UEFA, Inter dont really have to win this game - we just have to not lose or let them score more than 1 goal in a draw. If Barcelona beat Dynamo, Inter would go through with a win, a goalless draw, or a 1-all draw. A 2-all finish would put Rubin through. Are you still with me? Now, if Dynamo beat Barca, then only a win would put us through. Of course, it would also mean havoc in the streets as people attempted to dodge flying pigs. Basically, just to be on the safe side, we should really just win this game.
La Gazzetta has made this handy little chart so we can all keep track:
As I said, if we win, we are golden.
Things didn't go quite as planned in Russia. We conceded an early goal, then in the second half, Balotelli was sent off. Really, until that point, I think we had a pretty good shot of winning. Down to 10 against the Russian champs, though, I think we were all happy with the draw.
As I said above, the Russian season has ended and Ruban Kazan are the champions, again. And by a pretty huge stretch, too. They finished 8 points ahead of second place with the best offensive (62 goals) and defensive (only 21 allowed) records.
Word is, he is looking to parlay that success into a ticket out of town, with an eye to Italy and Spain. His agent, Jorge Cyterszpiler, has sent representatives to Turin as Juventus would like to add him to their squad in January. They will have to beat Valencia out to do it, though - or so they say.
As for the rest of the team, presumably they are much the same as our last game. Their other star forward, Aleksandr Bukharov, is just as prolific as Dominquez (16 goals in 23 games). Plus, he likes to score multiple goals in games: he has two hat tricks and three additional doubles in the Premier Liga.
Oh, and their keeper is quite good too - but I think we already saw that.
They have two players out through injury: defender Roman Sharonov (knee) and midfielder Aleksandr Bukharov (wrist). Both are apparently starters as they have played in all Rubin's other Champions League games. So bonus for us, I guess.
Mourinho has called all the fans to be present at the San Siro for the game. Believe me, if I could get away, I would totally be there. It looks like all hands on deck for this one, so that means practically the whole first team has been called up:
Goalkeepers: Toldo, Julio Cesar, Orlandoni.
Defenders: Cordoba, Zanetti, Lucio, Maicon, Materazzi, Samuel.
Midfielders: Stankovic, Thiago Motta, Sneijder, Muntari, Vieira, Cambiasso, Mancini.
Strikers: Eto'o, Suazo, Milito, Balotelli.
As for the missing names, Santon and Quaresma are injured while Chivu is suspended for card accumulation. Really worrying is that Samuel, Maicon and Zanetti (yep, our steadfast Captain) are all a booking away from a suspension. What on earth are we going to do if both Zanetti and Maicon go down. Yikes. But I guess we will cross that bridge if we come to it.
As for the line-up, Mou is playing everything quite close to his chest, saying:
"You're all good at guessing my team, you're all good at getting up the trees. This time, not even my assistants know what team I will play against Rubin. We will see who is good at getting into my head and reading my thoughts."
I think we can make a couple guesses:
Maicon Lucio Samuel Zanetti
Stankovic? Cambiasso Thiago Motta?*
*La Gazzetta thinks Muntari will start over Motta
Or something like that. Just for the record, though, if I turn out to be right (which is not terribly likely), I was never in those trees. Whatever those guards say - it wasn't me.
The rest of the press conference was short and I think Mourinho was visibly tired. The main point of his whole statement was:
1) Inter is better than Rubin
2) Inter have to win
3) Inter REALLY MUST win
So. That is about it. There is really not a whole lot else to say. Everyone know what we have to do (hint: win). Sure, if we dont, there is still a small ray of hope, but if we go into this with the attitude that a draw is acceptable, then we are done for. Without a doubt. The only thing for it is to go out there and play like their very lives depend on it.
I think we can win. I think this team is actually pretty darn good and, when everyone has their heads together, they can do some spectacular stuff. Still, sometimes things just dont go your way. In the result that things end poorly for us tomorrow, I just want everyone to remember why they love this team. In my opinion, everyone should be absolutely certain that Inter will win tomorrow, but prepared that they dont - that way all your bases are covered. Besides, if we dont go through, that just means we will get one more shot at kicking the stuffing out of Juventus.
Have faith, Ragazzi. Everyone pay special attention to the Calcio Gods tonight. Or, if you rather, you can always light a candle to San Siro (yes, he is a real saint with a cathedral and everything). Whatever. Just believe.
I have Spirit, yes I do. I have Spirit, how 'bout you?
Holy Crap! That's Figo there behind Marco and Deki! What the heck was he doing at training today? Do you think he took Mou up on his coaching assistant offer? Hooray! I love Figo.
On closer inspection (and in the light of day), as Hamood pointed out, this is an old picture. The Inter web page totally punked me by posting it with a whole mess of training photos from yesterday. Not cool, Inter web page, not cool.