With Adriano missing the UEFA Champions League Group G game against Werden Bremen due to suspension, four FC Internazionale Milano strikers are hoping to have a chance to prove to coach Roberto Mancini they can be the right attacking partner for the Brazilian in the long term.
Adriano has already scored 16 goals for the Nerazzurri in Serie A and Champions League games but has been suspended for two European matches after his sending-off against Valencia CF on Matchday 4 and will therefore miss the game at the Weserstadion.
Christian Vieri, Obafemi Martins, Julio Cruz and Alvaro Recoba have combined for a total of eleven goals in the two competitions and are all in contention for a place in the starting lineup against Bremen. However, the biggest prize on offer is the chance to partner Adriano in Sunday's Serie A game against Juventus FC.
Inter have already qualified for the Champions League first knockout round, but so far they have failed to translate their European brilliance on to the domestic stage. They are still unbeaten in Serie A but have won only two of their 12 games and are 15 points behind leaders Juventus ahead of the game at the San Siro.
'A great boost'
"On Wednesday we will only think about the game against Bremen and we will play to win as we always do," explained Mancini. "However, the match against Juventus on Sunday, even if we are very far from the Bianconeri, is a big opportunity for us.
A win against Juventus would be a great boost for us."
The competition for a place in attack started last weekend when Vieri, Recoba and Cruz all found the net in the 3-1 Coppa Italia win against Bologna FC. The match against Bremen, however, is a more severe test for the Nerazzurri attackers and a goal in Germany would probably mean a place in the starting lineup against Juventus.
Vieri's goal was his 109th for Inter and the Italian international is expected to play from the start in Bremen. Recoba is also battling for a place in attack especially after his goal as a second-half substitute against Bologna. "At this stage my job is to be ready whenever I'm called," said the Uruguay forward. "Obviously it's not easy to be at top condition when you don't play all the time but I'm happy with my performance."
The taciturn Cruz has also caused Mancini a selection headache by helping the team with his usual low-profile but very effective approach. The 30-year-old Argentinian striker has only played 30 minutes in two Champions League appearances this season, but he still managed to score in last month's triumph at the Mestalla.
Meanwhile, Martins did not play against Bologna but could have a chance against Bremen. Mancini has often labelled Adriano-Martins as "Inter's attacking partnership of the future", and a trip to Germany will revive memories for the 20-year-old Nigerian forward, who scored a crucial goal against Bayer 04 Leverkusen in the 2002/03 UEFA Champions League campaign to secure Inter's place in the last eight.
With Adriano continuing to perform as he did in the first part of the season, the selection of his attacking partner could be crucial for Inter. In this sense, even if nothing is at stake, the game against Bremen could be a turning point in the Nerazzurri's season.
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