FC Internazionale Milano coach Claudio Ranieri is relishing a reunion with Olympique de Marseille boss Didier Deschamps after the two clubs were drawn together in the UEFA Champions League round of 16.
Deschamps steered AS Monaco FC past Ranieri's Chelsea FC in the 2003/04 semi-finals, which proved to be the Italian's last European challenge with the English side before he was replaced by José Mourinho. Having led Inter to the Group B summit against a backdrop of indifferent Serie A form, Ranieri will now be hoping for an altogether different outcome against Group F runners-up Marseille when the sides lock horns in France on 22 February and at San Siro on 13 March.
"It's an interesting challenge between Inter and Marseille and between me and Deschamps," said Ranieri. "
He got the better of me in 2004 when he was coaching Monaco and I was at Chelsea. Now it's time for me to take revenge. The most important thing for Inter will be to be at our peak both physically and psychologically in time for the games, because Inter are not afraid of any team."
His counterpart recalls their previous jousts well, though he remains more firmly focused on the future. "It was a long time ago and a great memory – both the home and away leg," said Deschamps. "I don't like to talk about revenge and we'll be meeting again with different teams, even if we have the same goal: to reach the quarter-finals. Of course, we have a chance, but Inter remain a multi-national side who planned to go all the way at the start of the season."
Seventh in Serie A, the Nerazurri have had to revise many of their ambitions since then, yet Deschamps is wary of reading too much into their inconsistent domestic form. "We'll have to see what form they're in at the end of February," he said. "Inter are one of Europe's biggest clubs and it'll be an exciting contest both at home and at San Siro, one of the most attractive stadiums in Europe.
It will be a very tactical test as it often is against Italian teams, though they have huge attacking potential."
Likewise, Inter captain Javier Zanetti will be taking nothing for granted, particularly since last season's quarter-final exit to FC Schalke 04 is still fresh in the memory. "We are going to have two very difficult matches," said the defender, who featured in both legs when OM beat the Italian outfit 2-0 on aggregate in the last eight of the 2003/04 UEFA Cup. "We won't make the mistake of underestimating anyone.
Last season, everybody said it was a good draw against Schalke and we saw how that ended."
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