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Ajax ambition threatens Inter

Published: Wednesday 25 September 2002, 7.00CET
The San Siro hosts a repeat of the 1972 European Champion Clubs' Cup final.

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Published: Wednesday 25 September 2002, 7.00CET

Ajax ambition threatens Inter

The San Siro hosts a repeat of the 1972 European Champion Clubs' Cup final.

By Svend Frandsen

Internazionale FC and AFC Ajax go head to head in Group D tonight, when the San Siro hosts a repeat of the 1972 European Champion Clubs' Cup final.

Testing opponents
Back then the Dutch side claimed the trophy thanks to a couple of goals from Johan Cruyff and the signs are that Ajax could again prove testing opponents for the Italian favourites. Ronald Koeman's side were 2-1 winners against Olympique Lyonnais on Matchday One in the UEFA Champions League and continued their superb start in the Dutch Eredivisie with a 3-2 away win against RBC Roosendaal to extend their 100 per cent record to five matches.

Ibrahimovic in form
Swedish international Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a double goalscorer against Lyon, was on target again on Saturday. His attitude earned him criticism from Koeman last year but the big striker at last looks to be making the most of his huge potential.

'Very exciting'
"I am finally getting the service in the box that I need in order to score goals," Ibrahimovic said. "It has been frustrating being out of the side but at the moment it's very exciting to be part of a team that's playing so well. Inter will be a very tough test for us but when you reach the Champions League there simply aren't any easy matches left."

Litmanen doubtful
Koeman could be forced to reshuffle his squad after Jari Litmanen, who had been filling in for the injured Rafael van der Vaart, limped out of Saturday's match with a hamstring injury that leaves him doubtful. With striker Abubakari Yakubu suspended, Koeman could switch from a 4-3-3 system to 4-4-2 with Ibrahimovic and Victor Sikora spearheading the attack and the experienced Aron Winter operating on the right wing.

Draw in Norway
Inter kicked off their Champions League campaign with a 2-2 draw with Rosenborg BK in Norway and, with the addition of Italian international defender Fabio Cannavaro and Argentinian international Hernán Crespo, they arguably look even stronger than last season when they lost the Serie A title on the final day - this despite the summer departure of Ronaldo.

Cannavaro suspended
Uruguayan international Alvaro Recoba struck a 93rd-minute winner in the 2-1 success against Reggina Calcio on Sunday that made it two wins out of two for Inter in Serie A, but they will be handicapped against Ajax by the absence of the suspended Cannavaro, who was sent off against Rosenborg.

'Difficult match'
Coach Héctor Cúper expects a "very difficult match" against the Dutch double winners. "Just look at Ajax's recent history - two years ago they seemed to have lost their personality, now they have quality players and a quality style of play," he said. "They have good ball possession and great speed - it will be a very difficult match."

Last updated: 25/09/02 20.52CET