By Tom Rollett
FC Internazionale defender Fabio Cannavaro has urged team-mates to make up for a disappointing season in the UEFA Champions League and Serie A by winning the UEFA Cup.
Inter go into their quarter-final second leg against Olympique de Marseille trailing 1-0 from last week's match at the Stade Vélodrome. With the Italian club hoping to win the trophy they last lifted in 1997/98 for a record fourth time, Cannavaro knows the importance of Wednesday's tie.
"We have to stay focused and face all our remaining matches as if they were finals," said the Italian international. "At the start of the season we had important objectives but now we are playing to win another European competition and claim fourth place in the league to qualify for next season's Champions League."
'Angry and motivated'
Cannavaro, back in the team after a hamstring injury, is also desperate for Inter to win some silverware for the fans. "
We have had a strange season with lots of disappointments and we are all angry and motivated," he said. "Now we want to give our fans some joy."
The season has indeed been an uneven one. Inter were knocked out of the Champions League in December after being pipped by Arsenal FC and FC Lokomotiv Moskva - with a promising 3-0 win in London followed by a devastating 5-1 home defeat by the English Premiership leaders. In Serie A, meanwhile, the Nerazzurri, who replaced coach Héctor Cúper with Alberto Zaccheroni in October, lie 23 points behind leaders AC Milan in fifth position.
Disappointments fuel ambition
Those disappointments fuel the team's ambitions, according to Cannavaro, who joined Inter from Parma AC for €23m in 2002. "Winning the UEFA Cup would also mean doing better than last season and that is important," he said. "Unfortunately things have not gone well for us this year and we hit rock bottom after losing four league games in a row in mid-February."
The 30-year-old added: "
When you go through a crisis and you reach your lowest point, you just have to move up again." Since that bad run, Inter have rallied, winning consecutive league matches against Reggina Calcio, Ancona Calcio, title-chasing Juventus FC and AC Perugia. Cannavaro said: "We played well in the 3-2 win against Juventus [FC] and have to repeat that kind of performance."
Inter edged out SL Benfica 4-3 on aggregate in the UEFA Cup fourth round and have experience of French opposition as they beat FC Sochaux Montbéliard on away goals in the third round. However, Marseille are another proposition entirely.
"Marseille are a different kind of opponent to Sochaux, the other French team we played in Europe," said Cannavaro. "Sochaux are more of a team, while Marseille have more individual qualities. At this stage of the competition, we have to show maximum concentration and cannot make any mistakes otherwise we will be knocked out."
Last Thursday's first leg was a tight affair with Didier Drogba's goal just after half time separating the sides. But Cannavaro is pleased that the return is in Milan. "If we had lost 3-0 then obviously it would not be an advantage," he said. "But it is better to play at home in the second game as we know the first-leg result and what is required."
Fabio Cannavaro's personal website is at www.icons.com
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