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It has been a four-day period to forget for FC Internazionale Milano. If Saturday's 3-0 derby defeat by AC Milan damaged their Italian title ambitions, their UEFA Champions League hopes suffered an even more devastating blow with Tuesday's 5-2 quarter-final first-leg reverse at the hands of German visitors FC Schalke 04.
For long-serving Internazionale midfielder Esteban Cambiasso, however, the competition holders must now respond to adversity with clear heads. "Like the derby, this match was very important and it went very badly, in the same way many other matches we have played went very well," the Argentinian international said. "It's certainly an unhappy period for us just now, but we must remain calm, even though it isn't easy."
Nor will it be easy to turn the tie around in Gelsenkirchen next Wednesday, when Leonardo's side will need at least four goals to stand a chance of reaching the semi-finals. Despite the scale of the task, Cambiasso is not abandoning hope. "Nothing is impossible in football," the 30-year-old said. "
I doubt Schalke's players expected to win by scoring five goals at San Siro – nobody expects to score so many away from home in the Champions League. But if Schalke can do it here, then we can do it over there."
Cambiasso, a veteran of 68 appearances in Europe's premier club competition, stressed that there were no recriminations in the dressing room afterwards, pointing out that Inter remain in contention in Serie A and the Coppa Italia. "Nothing was said," explained the former Real Madrid CF anchorman. "When something like this happens, you have to wait for the dust to settle and face up to it. We must stay as calm as possible because there is still plenty to play for and we must correct our mistakes in the cold light of day – not at midnight after a heavy defeat.
"We were quite tired, but you cannot ration your energy," he added. "You give what you've got and if we've used up a lot of energy it's because we are a hard-working side. We've had to give everything in many matches since Leonardo's arrival in order to claw back a huge points deficit in the title race. It's easy to dwell on these back-to-back defeats, but not even our most optimistic fans hoped to see us move to within two points of Milan before the derby, yet we managed it.
"Similarly, few thought we'd turn it around in the last round by winning at Bayern München, but we made the quarter-finals – and that was the result of our hard work. We must keep giving our all and believe in ourselves to keep moving forward to reach our goals."
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