By Greg Demetriou
Internazionale FC have a selection crisis on their minds as they prepare to face Newcastle United FC at the San Siro on Tuesday night.
Injuries and suspension have hit coach Héctor Cúper in attack and it is expected he will be forced to play Christian Vieri, still without a goal in this season's UEFA Champions League, as a lone striker. Indeed, when asked about his likely forwards against Newcastle, Cúper gave a rueful smile and said "not [Alvaro] Recoba, [Mohamed] Kallon, [Hernán] Crespo and [Gabriel] Batistuta", before adding: "We'll have to see."
Recoba was the two-goal hero in Saturday's 2-1 win at Bologna FC but the Uruguayan is suspended after his sending-off against FC Barcelona last month while Kallon and Crespo are injured and Batistuta ineligible for Europe. Midfield player Cristiano Zanetti is the newest name on the missing list with a hamstring problem.
Happy with point
Speaking to uefa.com, Cúper said: "
The match against Newcastle is going to be tremendously complicated because of the number of injuries." As such, a point would be viewed as a welcome prize, even though victory would take the Italians through and eliminate Newcastle, who currently have six points, one less than Inter and four less than Group A leaders Barça who face Bayer 04 Leverkusen.
The Argentinian added: "We know that we are playing a match that, if we win it, will guarantee that we are in the quarter-finals. Even if we don't win it, we are still in the race. If we lose, I think we are in a very serious situation. That means, first of all, that we have to avoid losing."
It is rumoured Turkish dynamo Emre Belözoglu will be asked to support Vieri as much as possible. Inter captain Javier Zanetti believes his side "will have to run and run" but hopes midfield runners joining from deep "could be an advantage, by not giving a fixed point of reference to the Newcastle defence".
Newcastle have none of Inter's worries with strikers Craig Bellamy and Alan Shearer both set to play. Bellamy will be keen to impress as it was his red card that had a major bearing on the sides' first meeting, when Inter romped to a 4-1 victory at St James' Park. He and Shearer will be up against a defence missing Marco Materazzi with a thigh injury.
Newcastle, beaten 1-0 by Middlesbrough FC last Wednesday, have benefited from a free weekend in England and could have as many as 10,000 travelling fans cheering them on. Moreover, manager Sir Bobby Robson has the benefit of a full squad to choose from, in marked contrast to his opposite number. "Everybody is fine," he said. "We have no injuries, no suspensions and nobody is ill." The only concern had been Shay Given's dislocated finger, but the goalkeeper is fit to play.
Yet Inter have not lost at home to an English team for 42 years, and Sir Bobby acknowledged the threat Vieri alone could pose his team. When asked how best to stop the Italy forward, the mischevious manager said "put an elastic band around his legs".
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