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Cagliari v Inter: Is There a Striker in the House?

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Because we could really use one right about now. And maybe a midfielder as well. Ok, fellow Interisti, this one may get ugly. Gruesome even. A quick scan through he squad list shows we are down seven to eight players (depending on whether you count Suazo), including Cambiasso, Pandev, and Milito. Ouch. Plus, of the players that are available to play, a further half of those spend the last couple weeks playing for their respective national teams. Oh, and did I mention? We have a champions league game on Wednesday. Now, I am not saying this cant be done - that we cant come back from sunny Sardinia with all three points - but it is going to take some serious grit, some luck, and some of that sparkly Eto'o magic.

WHAT: Cagliari v Inter, Serie A matchday 7
WHERE: Stadio Sant'Elia, Cagliari, Sardinia
WHEN: Sunday, 12:30 local time (3:30am pacific, 6:30am eastern - who's stupid idea where these early games anyway?!)
HOW TO WATCH: Watch live on Fox Soccer Plus and RAI (other channels here); also on line on ESPN3 and ppv on FoxSoccer.tv or you can always find a stream (MyP2P, Rojadirecta, Ustream, and ATDHE.net)
LIVEBLOG: Not this time. 3:30 am is not my finest hour and I would never ask anyone to get up at 6:30 am on a Sunday to do it for me. Sorry. Really, these lunchtime games truely suck.

Cagliari is by no means an easy fixture for Inter. Although we dont often lose this game, statistically speaking, we dont win it much either. Inter and Cagliari have played 31 league games in Sardinia, 16 have ended in a draw (W10, L5). Last season Inter came to this fixture in similar circumstances to this Sunday. Cambiasso was injured, we had just come off an international break and a number of our players were tired - the big difference is we had last-season's Milito. We went down early, but two great goals from Il Principe saw us take the day:

THEM
Not much to do here, Jeremy already has a preview up for this game on the Cagliari board. I suggest you check it out for all things Isolani.

Bisoli has a full, well rested squad at his disposal. This team has yet to lose at home this season, and that 5-1 win against Roma shows they know how to get the ball in the back of the net. Cagliari has some great players, like Matri, Acquafresca, and Cossu so pulling a win out is going to be tough. Matri already has 4 goals this season and I am sure Bobby is looking to stick it to the team who sent him away (remember, Acquafresca is an Inter youth product). Overall, Cagliari sit 13th with 6 points (1 w, 4 d, 1 l). They have scored 7 goals and only allowed 5 (which is the same as Milan and Lazio). Clearly, they know how to defend. Cripes, the more research I do, the more my palms start to sweat.

pre cagliari training
My goodness, look at all the babies.

US

Benitez has actually found 19 players to call up (go figure):

Goalkeepers: Julio Cesar, Castellazzi, Orlandoni.
Defenders: Zanetti, Lucio, Maicon, Materazzi, Samuel, Chivu, Santon.
Midfielders: Stankovic, Thiago Motta, Sneijder, Muntari, Obi, Coutinho.
Strikers: Eto'o, Alibec, Biabiany.

So, that means Pandev failed his fitness test but Zanetti and Thiago Motta passed thiers. Personally, I think they were going to have to tie Zanetti down to keep him out much longer. This is the longest layoff he has had in years and he must be itching to get back out there. Thiago Motta's case is slightly different. He is just off a looooooong injury and I hope Benitez will ease him into play and not risk him going out again. Last year, this fixture saw him pull a hamstring - we lost him for a month at a really critical time. This year, it would be great to have him available for some Champions League group stage fixtures.

Denis Alibec, Sulley Muntari, and Samuel Eto'o
Alibec or Muntari, I wonder which, if either, will see the pitch tomorrow.

Cambiasso and Milito are out, but we already know that (stupid international friendlies), as is Mariga (ditto). On the up side, it looks like the defense is slowly returning and only Cordoba has a lingering problem. With Pandev and Milito out, Rafa has had to poach from the youth team. You may remember Denis Alibec from this past summer's American tour, but he also trained some with the first team last season as well. I have been trying to find Primavera team stats for him but nothing (if anyone knows where I can find such things, please post a link in the comments). It will be interesting to see if he actually gets any pitch time.

All of this leads us to the dreaded line-up predicition. I guess it will be the typical 4-2-3-1, but with who?
How about:

Julio Cesar
Maicon Lucio Samuel Chivu
Zanetti Stankovic (Muntari?)
Biabiany Sneijder Countinho
Eto'o

Personally, I dont like Stankovic as a holding midfielder. Although he is versatile, I like him better in an attacking role. Muntari seems more suited to the holding role but Benitez doesn't seem to like him much plus there is that whole little snit he had last game. Anyway, I think Rafa will choose Deki but I would prefer he give Sulley a chance.

As always, the title of Grand Imperial Poobah of All Things Inter is on the line. Especially if you think my line-up is wrong (and you turn out to be right). The title comes with a personally inscribed certificate (suitable for framing) and a week's worth of bragging rights.

Benitez Moratti
So, Mr. President, what is all this "Messi to Inter" talk about?

Benitez gave a useless press conference today. I swear, that man is politician good at not saying anything to the press. After 20-some-odd questions, all I can come away with is that, while Kaka and Benzima may find some trouble finding room on the squad, Messi we could use. Oh, and that the injuries are a function of the heavy fixture schedule in conjunction with the World Cup (stupid World Cup).

Ok, so we dont have Cambiasso or Milito.... but Zanetti and Samuel are back. Maybe one will balance the other and Eto'o will take this as an opportunity to make us all say "Milito who?" (as an aside, is it just me or does anyone else find it vaguely worrying that he was in Barcelona talking to their sporting director last week?) I think we have the talent to win this tie. Even though this team often gives us all sorts of trouble, I think we can go to Cagliari to win. I think the boys are itching to get back to winning ways and this is just the game to do it. Hey, maybe this will be the game Coutinho finally gets his goal!

FORZA INTER

It seems our coach has been calling in to talk shows: