European champions FC Internazionale Milano may have lost four of their last six games in all competitions – and won just two out of nine – but they have cause for optimism ahead of Wednesday's FIFA Club World Cup semi-final against Asian champions Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma FC.
Victory would take Inter into Saturday's decider against TP Mazembe of DR Congo, who became the first African team to get to the decider by beating 2006 winners SC Internacional of Brazil 2-0. Perhaps the biggest reason for cheer is the return of key players from injury, including Diego Milito, the forward who scored both goals in Inter's UEFA Champions League final defeat of FC Bayern München in May.
"I'm calm, happy and full of confidence," was coach Rafael Benítez's approach to the game against the AFC Champions League winners in Abu Dhabi, federal capital of the United Arab Emirates. Benítez, who lost the final of this competition with Liverpool FC against São Paulo FC in 2005, expects good things. "I watch Milito scoring great goals in training and I think: we are strong."
The 31-year-old Milito, who scored 22 Serie A goals, six in the UEFA Champions League and two in the Coppa Italia as Inter won a 2010 treble, has played only nine times in Serie A since because of injuries. "I have trained for a week now," he said during the pre semi-final press conference. "We want to play a great game [on Wednesday].
This is a unique competition, you never know if you will have the chance to play in it again because winning the UEFA Champions League is so difficult.
"I would give anything to win this trophy," the Argentinian international continued. "It would be nice to score the winning goal as happened last year in three different competitions, but the victory is what matters most. I don't care if I score as long as we win. There is a different spirit in the team right now; we are all enjoying training, probably because it's the first time this season we are not missing lots of players."
Alongside Milito, the UEFA Club Forward and UEFA Club Footballer of the Year, the Nerazzurri also have Maicon – UEFA Club Defender of the Year – and Júlio César – UEFA Club Goalkeeper of the Year – among the list of returnees. "At the moment I can only say I will start with eleven players," Benítez said. "I'm happy finally to have the chance to make proper selection decisions.
"Seongnam have worked hard to get here," he added of his side's South Korean opponents. "It's not easy to win the Asian Champions League. They are tactically well-organised, they have intensity and quality, but we are Inter and we are here to go all the way in this tournament."
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