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Cup chance for big two

Published: Thursday 11 March 2004, 12.10CET
SL Benfica and FC Internazionale will seek redemption in the UEFA Cup when the clubs meet in Lisbon.
Published: Thursday 11 March 2004, 12.10CET

Cup chance for big two

SL Benfica and FC Internazionale will seek redemption in the UEFA Cup when the clubs meet in Lisbon.

By Patrick Hart

On paper, it is arguably the tie of the UEFA Cup fourth round, bringing together two of the great names of continental football in a replay of the 1964/65 European Champion Clubs' Cup final.

Domestic strife
However, neither SL Benfica nor FC Internazionale enter this first-leg tie at the Estádio da Luz in the sort of form the traditions of both clubs demand. The Lisbon side are 14 points adrift of runaway leaders FC Porto, in third place in the Portuguese SuperLiga. The visitors, meanwhile, have lost their last four league games to lie seventh in Serie A.

Camacho request
Benfica at least have a Portuguese Cup semi-final to look forward, but there is no doubt that the UEFA Cup offers the best chance of salvation for both teams' seasons. With this in mind, Benfica coach José Antonio Camacho has called for a show of "calm and character" from his charges. "If we play like that, we can cause Inter problems," he said. "But Inter have excellent players who like to attack - it is not catenaccio any more."

Missing parts
Camacho is hamstrung by injury and suspension, however. Striker Mantorras and defender Argel have been sidelined for several weeks, and are joined on the absentee list by Greek full-back Panagiotis Fyssas, who is cup-tied having played for Panathinaikos FC in the UEFA Champions League, and Nuno Gomes. The latter was sent off after scoring Benfica's decisive away goal in the 2-1 defeat by Rosenborg BK in the third round second leg.

Competition for places
Camacho's selection worries concern the left-back and right-wing berths. Armando impressed in the former position in Sunday's 2-1 league win at Gil Vicente FC, but faces competition from Cristiano. Brazilian Geovanni, who scored against Gil Vicente, should get the nod ahead of 18-year-old João Pedro Ferreira Vilela for the right-wing slot. In attack, playmaker Zlatko Zahovic will look to feed a front two of Simão Sabrosa, operating down the left, and Tomislav Šokota, the only fit striker.

Vieri suspended
For Inter, Okan Buruk, Carlos Gamarra and Alvaro Recoba have shaken off injuries, leaving only Francesco Coco, Emre Belözoglu and Matías Almeyda on the treatment table. However, Marco Materazzi and Christian Vieri - red-carded in the second leg of the away-goals victory against FC Sochaux Montbéliard - are suspended, while Adriano and Dejan Stankovic are cup-tied.

'Show of spirit needed'
Recovering from Sunday's 4-1 loss at AS Roma is the challenge facing the Nerazzurri now. Defender Daniele Adani said: "The only positive result we have achieved in recent weeks was in qualifying for the UEFA Cup fourth round. Now we must confirm this good result in Europe and play Benfica with the same spirit we showed against Sochaux. Benfica are a difficult opponent, but we want to reach the quarter-finals."

Last word
Adani's coach, Alberto Zaccheroni, concurred, saying: "A good result in the UEFA Cup will improve morale and give us more enthusiasm for the league."

Last updated: 11/03/04 13.57CET

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