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Nobody knows the recipe to winning back-to-back titles in the UEFA Champions League era as no team has managed the feat since the competition's inception in 1992. FC Internazionale Milano are the latest team to try, mixing the ingredients of a new coach and a virtually unchanged squad as they look to hit on an elusive winning blend.
Since lifting the trophy in Madrid in May, Inter have replaced José Mourinho, who departed for Real Madrid CF, with Rafael Benítez, but have been relatively quiet during the summer transfer market. They sold striker Mario Balotelli to Manchester City FC and added to their squad two promising players returning from loan spells in forward Jonathan Biabiany and midfielder Coutinho, back from Parma FC and CR Vasco da Gama respectively.
After finally conquering Europe again, more than four decades since the club's two consecutive triumphs in the 1960s, Inter's players are eager to show that their motivation remains intact, as right-back Maicon stressed to UEFA.com. "You always need to be motivated and if you wear the Inter shirt, the motivation is high," he said. "Every player would like to do what only a few teams have managed to achieve, to win everything. This is the most important motivation.
"We suffered for two years with Inter being eliminated in the last 16 both times," he continued. "Last season finally we managed to win it and we deserved it as we beat teams who wanted this trophy so badly. Last year was our moment, and we've seen how difficult it is to defend this trophy."
Inter began the new era under Benítez by defeating AS Roma to win the Italian Super Cup but then failed to add the UEFA Super Cup to their collection by losing against Club Atlético de Madrid in Monaco. Wesley Sneijder is confident another successful season beckons all the same, and points to the strength of the Nerazzurri squad.
The most important thing is that we are still together as a team, nobody left from the first XI. Of course, we have a different coach and all coaches are different in the way they organise the tactics."
Benítez will be different but Maicon does not doubt the Spaniard, winner of the UEFA Cup with Valencia CF and UEFA Champions League with Liverpool FC, can deliver. "He is a great coach who likes to win trophies like the Champions League, as he already demonstrated with Liverpool and wherever he worked," the Brazilian said.
Goalkeeper Júlio César added: "He is a coach who has the right mentality for big clubs. He is someone who doesn't like losing. He is also very professional and talks a lot to the players. Let's hope we can have a season with him as we had last year."
So can Inter become the first team to defend the European crown since their neighbours AC Milan in 1990? "Let's hope so, maybe," replied Diego Milito who scored the goals that clinched not just the Serie A title and Italian Cup but also the UEFA Champions League with his final double against FC Bayern München.
"We are working hard, we work every day to achieve the objectives we have, and we know what it is like, as we experienced it last season.
The path is not easy. There are great teams, but we are confident and we want to have a good campaign and try to reach the final."
"We will give it a go," added goalkeeper Júlio César. "The team is strong and the players are strong.
We have experienced great moments, we have won everything and I hope it continues like that. We know it will be very difficult in the Champions League, but we will try and see what happens."
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