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FC Internazionale will be striving to prove that there is more than one team in Milan capable of dazzling on the European stage when they tackle SL Benfica in the second leg of their UEFA Cup fourth-round tie on Thursday.
With the red half of the city still revelling in the glory of AC Milan's 4-1 UEFA Champions League victory against RC Deportivo La Coruña last night, Inter supporters could claim the bragging rights on Friday should their side overcome Benfica to set up a quarter-final meeting with Liverpool FC or Olympique de Marseille. The tie is finely balanced, though, with the Nerazzurri being susceptible to an away goal following a scoreless draw at the Estádio da Luz.
Benfica will take confidence from a showing in Lisbon which saw them dominate possession and goalscoring opportunities, and the fact that Inter have been flawed of late in front of their own fans: Alberto Zaccheroni's side last won at home on 1 February, when AC Siena were beaten 4-0. Inter are sixth in Serie A and would have been even further adrift had they not arrested a run of six games without success against Ancona Calcio on Sunday.
Christian Vieri was rested for that 2-0 victory but will return to spearhead an attack in which Obafemi Martins, Alvaro Recoba and Julio Cruz are competing for a starting place. Dutch winger Andy van der Meyde is also available after recovering from flu, yet there is little cheer for Zaccheroni in other positions: Thomas Helveg, Cristiano Zanetti and Marco Materazzi are suspended, Dejan Stankovic and Adriano ineligible and Francesco Coco (back), Emre Belözoglu and Fabio Cannavaro (both thigh) injured.
None the less, Zaccheroni is confident Inter are equipped to progress. "
I'm expecting to win even if I'm aware that we're facing a team that's in good shape at the moment," the coach told the club's official website. "Benfica are strong across the field and come into the match on the back of a series of good results. It'll be a difficult match, but we've got the means to reach the next round."
Benfica have passed Portuguese international duo Tiago and Petit fit and both should play. Nuno Gomes scored the only goal as the Eagles defeated SC Beira-Mar 1-0 in the SuperLiga on Sunday and he will again be on the prowl at the San Siro, a venue where Inter have won just once in five European games this term.
"This battle with Inter is very important because most of the players are playing in big European matches for the first time," said Benfica coach José Antonio Camacho. "I already know who will play and I can guarantee it will be a very competitive team." And a competitive match, no doubt.
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