By Kevin Ashby
Internazionale FC will want to stretch this season's unbeaten domestic and UEFA Champions League record when they host Olympique Lyonnais, the only French side to have beaten them in Milan, on Wednesday in a Group D fixture which promises to have a considerable bearing on eventual section supremacy.
Topping Serie A
Although Inter recorded their third successive league success on Sunday evening, Christian Vieri scoring both goals in a 2-1 victory against AC Chievo Verona, to establish themselves as the sole Serie A leaders, they have not been as convincing in Europe. Hernán Crespo has been the source of the Nerazzurri's four points thus far, rescuing a point with two goals against Rosenborg BK before his opportunist volley sank AFC Ajax last week.
Héctor Cúper, the coach of Inter, was honest in his assessment of the display against the Dutch champions, admitting he was merely "satisfied" with a result worth "six points not three", a reference to the combative nature of the group. However, on Tuesday the Argentinian played down Lyon's 5-0 victory against Rosenborg. "Each match is different," Cúper said. "Against Ajax [a 2-1 loss], Lyon played an excellent second half. They are technically a very strong team but the result against Rosenborg is perhaps exaggerated."
The return from suspension of central defender Fabio Cannavaro is tempered by the absence of fellow Italian international Vieri with an ankle injury. Thus Alvaro Recoba, who added, in the words of his coach, "incredible power" to the team when he came on against Ajax, is a certain starter alongside Crespo, if his fellow South American shrugs off the hip injury which sidelined him against Chievo. Crespo was still under observation 24 hours before the match, with Cúper refusing to comment on his progress.
In contrast, Lyon coach Paul Le Guen could call on the lively Sidney Govou as the marksman continues to recover from injury. The 23-year-old's absence was not felt last week though as Lyon ran in five goals without reply. Le Guen is not expecting such a straightforward task in Milan though. "Inter showed great personality to fight back against Chievo," he said. "They have some great players but I want to give my players more freedom away from home. The experience of playing in Amsterdam could prove useful."
History favours Inter
History in this fixture on Inter's side. They defeated Lyon 8-1 on aggregate in the Inter Cities Fairs Cup 44 years ago before eliminating Wednesday's opponents 4-2 in the second round en route to UEFA Cup success in 1997/98. Lyon though won the first leg of that tie, 2-1, to end Inter's San Siro monopoly over French opponents. A further stain on the Italians' home record would blow Group D wide open.
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