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By Patrick Hart
Revenge was the word on Héctor Cúper's lips as the Internazionale FC coach spelt out the importance of Wednesday's UEFA Champions League meeting with Group A leaders FC Barcelona at the San Siro.
Source of motivation
Inter go into the game keen to reassert themselves in the section after last week's 3-0 defeat by the Catalan side left them looking over their shoulders at third-placed Newcastle United FC. "We played badly in Barcelona and that is a source of motivation," Cúper said. "This will be a different game."
Only way is up
At Camp Nou, Barcelona extended their winning run in this season's competition to eleven games. Until recent weeks, this record had belied an indifferent domestic campaign yet Radomir Antic's arrival as coach has reinvigorated Barcelona. "They are in form. Once you hit the bottom, the only way is up," said Cúper. Indeed, Barça's "new momentum" has yielded successive victories against RCD Espanyol, Inter, and Real Betis Balompié.
Fact is, Inter need the win more than the visitors do - they trail the Blaugrana by three points, with Newcastle another three behind. Cúper's focus is on the job in hand, and he refused to let his press conference be hijacked by questions about the abuse given to Inter players Stéphane Dalmat and Domenico Morfeo by their own supporters during Sunday's 3-1 league success against Piacenza FC. "We are thinking about Wednesday, and
I don't want to hear the players talking about anything other than Barça," he said.
Christian Vieri, who has spoken up for his team-mates, can further help their cause with a first Champions League goal of the season. The centre-forward has registered 21 times for the joint-Serie A leaders but not once in Europe. The onus will be on Vieri to break that sequence as Inter are without the injured Hernán Crespo and suspended Alvaro Recoba. With Iván Córdoba also serving a ban, Marco Materazzi should partner Fabio Cannavaro in central defence, while Mohamed Kallon and ex-Barça man Francesco Coco will feature after missing out on Matchday 9.
Attack, attack, attack
Coco's colleague at Camp Nou last year, Barcelona captain Carlos Puyol, echoed Cúper's assertion that his team would go out to attack. The defender said: "If we go there looking for a draw, we will probably lose." Given Barcelona's recent problems, it was strange to hear Puyol warn against "over-confidence". "
Inter will want to show that last week was a one-off," he said.
While there has been speculation in the Netherlands that Frank de Boer and Phillip Cocu could both leave the club in the summer, De Boer's immediate concern is to partner Puyol in a back four also likely to contain Gabri García and Michael Reiziger. In midfield Cocu should appear alongside Xavi and two from Gaizka Mendieta, Thiago Motta and Fabio Rochemback. Meanwhile, Javier Saviola's hat-trick against Betis should earn him a place alongside Patrick Kluivert in attack. Puyol's theory that Barça's "luck has changed" is, however, less of a sure thing.
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