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Crespo poser for Cúper

Published: Tuesday 18 March 2003, 20.50CET
Hernán Crespo may return as Internazionale FC look to advance by beating Bayer 04 Leverkusen.
Published: Tuesday 18 March 2003, 20.50CET

Crespo poser for Cúper

Hernán Crespo may return as Internazionale FC look to advance by beating Bayer 04 Leverkusen.

By Mark Bennett

Internazionale FC go into their final UEFA Champions League second group stage match against Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Wednesday evening knowing that only a win will assure them of a place in the quarter-finals. A loss or defeat for Héctor Cúper's side will mean they can be eliminated if Newcastle United FC beat FC Barcelona in the night's other Group A tie.

Injury and suspension
To add to the night's uncertainty, Inter are substantially weakened by injury and suspension. Strikers Christian Vieri and Alvaro Recoba are both serving bans after picking up three yellow cards, while Mohamed Kallon, Luigi di Biagio and Cristiano Zanetti are nursing injuries.

'In our own hands'
Nevertheless, Cúper is optimistic that his side will produce the result they need. "We have got everything in our own hands," said the 47-year-old Argentinian. "I have total trust in my players and I am sure that we will get the win. I do, however believe that Leverkusen will put up a fight."

Crespo could return
Inter's optimism has also been fuelled by the likely return of Hernán Crespo, who hit nine goals in the competition before Christmas only for a thigh injury to sideline him in January. "His chances of making the starting lineup are 50-50, but the question if Hernán plays or not should not be given too much attention," Cúper said.

Cúper ponders
"What happens if I bring him on as a substitute in the second half and he picks up an injury after ten minutes?" the Inter coach continued. "If I have made three substitutions at the time then it could mean us going out. If he can start then it is a different matter and makes it easier for me."

Martins in the spotlight
If Crespo does not start then the onus will be on 18-year-old forward Obafemi Martins to produce the goods, although Cúper stressed: "He must be able to play without any pressure because he is a young player." Inter goalkeeper Toldo also added some words of support to the young Nigerian, who only made his Serie A debut in December 2002, by saying: "The older players will help him if he plays and he will help us reach the goal we have set ourselves."

Leverkusen to rest players
Eliminated Leverkusen, who are yet to pick up a point in the group, are likely to rest players just as they did against Newcastle and Barcelona. "Dimitar Berbatov and Juan will be left out of the squad because they are still not quite fit after injuries and to be honest I don't want to take the risk," said coach Thomas Hörster, who is also expected to rest Carsten Ramelow, Oliver Neuville, Hanno Balitsch and Bernd Schneider from duty.

'Coach's right'
Cúper defended Hörster's right to rest players in the light of the German side's battle to secure 1. Bundesliga survival. "It is their coach's right to concentrate on the Bundesliga," he said. "If we were through already and I rested Toldo nobody would complain."

Last updated: 19/03/03 20.54CET

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