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FC Internazionale Milano coach Roberto Mancini spent Monday morning relaxing among the glitterati at a fashion show but his philosophy ahead of the visit of Valencia CF remained unwaveringly one of substance over style.
Mancini has guided his side to a record 16 Serie A victories in succession – a sequence that has taken them 14 points clear of their nearest rivals – and it is this winning habit that he wants to graft into their UEFA Champions League campaign, which has seen them qualify from Group B as runners-up. "We might win Serie A with weeks to spare but that doesn't matter," he said. "What matters is winning it.
"The same applies to the Champions League. It's probably the most alluring and exciting tournament there is, but even if you're the best team, you can get knocked out in an instant. Serie A is going well but the Champions League is another matter entirely. The key is to qualify for the next round and there are lots of ways that can be achieved. Our philosophy is to do whatever it takes to qualify."
Inter achieved their latest league triumph with a 1-0 success against Cagliari Calcio. Nicolás Burdisso scored but it is for his defensive qualities that the Argentinian could start at right-back, to counter the threat of Miguel Ángel Angulo, who along with David Villa scored in Valencia's 2-1 win against FC Barcelona on Sunday. The reappearance of Olivier Dacourt is also likely with Patrick Vieira ruled out after aggravating an injury in training. Valencia, meanwhile, will be without Asier del Horno, Rubén Baraja and Vicente Rodríguez, and goalkeeper Santiago Cañizares is a doubt with the virus that sidelined him against Barça.
"Valencia will be buoyed by their victory against Barcelona," continued Mancini. "It always gives a team confidence when they beat a big side and, to be honest, I wasn't surprised. They are a solid side without any discernible weakness. They have mobile forwards and they can kill you if you give them any space, but you cannot focus on any one player because, if you try to block out Angulo or David Silva, then Villa or Fernando Morientes will hurt you instead."
For his part, Valencia coach Quique Sánchez Flores rued the absence of so many first-team regulars and admitted coveting the Italian outfit's strength in depth. "They will miss Vieira but we have six internationals out," he said. "They have quality cover for every position but we should have players back for the return and that's where this will be decided. We began this adventure with great hope and we are still highly motivated for this competition – it means a lot to us. Inter are an imposing side but we will try to defend well and overcome their physical presence with our own technical strengths. It won't be decided in the first leg - the key is not to lose the first and try to win the second."
Internazionale: Júlio César; Maicon, Marco Materazzi, Iván Córdoba, Nicolás Burdisso; Javier Zanetti, Olivier Dacourt, Esteban Cambiasso; Dejan Stanković; Zlatan Ibrahimović, Adriano.
Valencia: Santiago Cañizares; Luis Miguel, Raúl Albiol, Roberto Ayala, Emiliano Moretti; Miguel Ángel Angulo, Carlos Marchena, David Albelda, David Silva; David Villa, Fernando Morientes.
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