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Fates reunite Inter and Valencia

Published: Friday 15 December 2006, 23.21CET
For the fourth time in six seasons Valencia CF and FC Internazionale Milano have been drawn together in Europe - which could be ominous for Los Che. features

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Published: Friday 15 December 2006, 23.21CET

Fates reunite Inter and Valencia

For the fourth time in six seasons Valencia CF and FC Internazionale Milano have been drawn together in Europe - which could be ominous for Los Che.
For the fourth time in six seasons, Valencia CF and FC Internazionale Milano have been drawn together in European competition, paired in the UEFA Champions League first knockout round. Inter may be the happier of the two - they beat Valencia in the quarter-finals of the 2001/02 UEFA Cup and 2002/03 UEFA Champions League, and two seasons later repeated the trick in the group stage.

'Extremely difficult'
Nonetheless, Inter coach Roberto Mancini believes Valencia are tough opponents. "It will not be easy because in February, Valencia will have important players back from injuries and when they had a full squad available they were top of their league," Mancini said. "On paper, maybe Valencia were not among the teams we wanted to avoid but I'm sure it will be extremely difficult for us. We cannot forget what happened last season against Villarreal [CF] when we were considered favourites but lost. We will need two great performances if we want to reach the quarter-finals."

Valencia inspired
Meanwhile, Valencia striker Fernando Morientes insists Inter's super form at the top of Serie A will only inspire his team-mates. "They are tough opponents but we are desperate to beat them and go through to the next stage," said Morientes. "It's been well received in the dressing room, even though being group winners we could have drawn less tricky opponents, but we'll see what happens on the pitch."

Anniversary tie
These sides' first meeting was in the 1961/62 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup quarter-finals, when Valencia won 2-0 at home and drew 3-3 in Milan on their way to lifting their first European trophy. But when they were reunited at the same stage of the UEFA Cup 40 years later, Inter were held 1-1 at home with Valencia having Kily González dismissed, before triumphing 1-0 in Spain despite the late sending-off of goalkeeper Francesco Toldo, exactly four decades on from the second leg of the previous tie.

Inter successes
The following term Inter and Valencia came together in another last-eight encounter, this time in the UEFA Champions League. Christian Vieri's 32nd-minute strike proved enough for Inter - whose coach Héctor Cúper had recently moved over from Valencia - to take a 1-0 lead from their home leg, which both clubs ended with ten men, and Vieri scored again five minutes into the return. That proved decisive after Pablo Aimar and Rubén Baraja had replied for Valencia. In the 2004/05 group stage it was even worse for Valencia as they were crushed 5-1 by Mancini's men in the Mestalla in a game that was goalless at half-time. Two weeks later Los Che drew 0-0 in Italy but Inter, who had Adriano red-carded that day, were to win the group while Valencia came third.

Last updated: 15/12/06 16.59CET

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