Internazionale FC will want a return to European form on Tuesday evening when they face FC Lokomotiv Moskva in UEFA Champions League Group B.
Inter, with only two wins from their first six Serie A matches, travel to Moscow with a caretaker in charge after Saturday's 2-2 draw at Brescia Calcio spelt the end of Héctor Cúper's reign as coach. Corrado Verdelli will warm the bench in the Russian capital ahead of Alberto Zaccheroni's accession on Wednesday, but despite the uncertain backdrop to this match, the Italian side enter the Lokomotiv stadium as group leaders.
Victories against Arsenal FC and FC Dynamo Kyiv have put the Nerazzurri in pole position, prompting Verdelli to say: "I am ready for this game and so are the players. But they [Lokomotiv] are a compact unit, very solid in defence, and it will not be easy."
Weight of tradition
Inter have no new injuries worries, with midfield players Andy van der Meyde, Sabri Lamouchi and Luciano still absent, and defender Marco Materazzi struggling to be fit. The Nerazzurri do at least have the weight of tradition on their side, with Italian teams unbeaten on Russian soil in 12 UEFA club competition matches.
Moreover, the San Siro ensemble are undefeated by Russian opposition and claimed the scalps of FC Torpedo Moskva and FC Spartak Moskva in previous European campaigns. Captain Javier Zanetti added: "We are aware of the importance of this game and we are ready to give everything as a win would take us closer to our goal of qualifying."
Despite the historical context, Lokomotiv coach Yuri Semin was undaunted by the prospect of taking on Inter. "We will play for victory," he said, promising a performance like the one that swept aside FC Shinnik Yaroslavl, 6-1, last Thursday in the Russian Premier League. "We have to create goalscoring chances and take them. That's our main problem, as we often miss lots of opportunities."
Eager to play
Consequently, Lokomotiv are yet to score in this competition, the Matchday 2 stalemate with Arsenal FC having followed a 2-0 defeat by Dynamo in Kiev. However, Semin should have Russian international midfield player Marat Izmailov available after he picked up an ankle injury against Shinnik. "Izmailov was training again with the team yesterday and he is eager to play - that should help us," Semin said. Meanwhile, defender Jacob Lekcetho returns from suspension.
Lokomotiv's hopes of retaining their domestic title ended with a recent 1-0 defeat by Torpedo Moskva. Semin, therefore, had problems of his own to consider when he was asked about those facing Inter. "It is not right for me to talk about Héctor Cúper," he said. "I don't think [the change of coach] will alter the way our opponents play, Inter's tactics will probably stay the same."
Keep on winning
Christian Vieri is expected to continue in attack alongside Alvaro Recoba, and Inter caretaker Verdelli insisted there would be "no drastic changes". Not least, he will hope, to the visitors' 100 per cent start to this Champions League season.
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