Internazionale FC take on Arsenal FC knowing that three points will guarantee their progress to the knockout stage.
By Paolo Menicucci in Milan
Internazionale FC welcome Arsenal FC to the San Siro on Tuesday, knowing that three points will guarantee progress to the UEFA Champions League knockout stage from a tight Group B.
The Italian team could not be in more confident mood. Revived under new coach Alberto Zaccheroni, they enter the match buoyed by a 6-0 win against Reggina Calcio on Saturday which followed a 3-0 victory over Ancona Calcio two weeks earlier. However, Inter's best performance this term remains the 3-0 triumph at Arsenal on Matchday 1, and Zaccheroni, who was not in charge for that game, has demanded a repeat showing from his players.
"It is always good to remember wins and good performances," he said. "Inter played a great game and deserved to win. The players approached the match with the right attitude and Héctor Cúper got his decisions right. Tactically Inter made no mistakes. Let's hope the same happens tomorrow."
Goals from Julio Cruz, Obafemi Martins and Andy van der Meyde ensured the Highbury club made a dismal start to their European campaign. But the 1-0 win against FC Dynamo Kyiv on their last outing maintained Arsenal's qualifying hopes in a group where they trail Inter by three points, Dynamo by two, and FC Lokomotiv Moskva by one.
The victory also impressed Zaccheroni. "They [Arsenal] are a team with great personality," he said. "If you analyse the statistics, they are the team with the most shots on goal and goalscoring chances." Of his opposite number, Arsène Wenger, the Inter coach added: "He is one of the best coaches in world football. They got off to a bad start in the Champions League but they're definitely the toughest opponent in our group. However, we are Inter: we must respect them but not be afraid of them."
The Nerazzurri face Arsenal without the injured Emre Belözoglu (knee) and Francesco Coco (back), while Alvaro Recoba is not deemed fit enough. However, Marco Materazzi is available after missing the Reggina match with a muscle problem, and Martins and Cruz will vie for a place alongside Christian Vieri and Van der Meyde in a 3-4-3 lineup.
As for former Interista, Dennis Bergkamp, the Dutchman refuses to fly and joins a lengthy Arsenal absentee list that includes the injured Patrick Vieira (thigh), Sylvain Wiltord (groin) and Lauren (knee). Defender Martin Keown has recovered from a calf problem but "is not ready for a game like this" according to Wenger, while Brazilian Gilberto is rated "very doubtful".
Play to win
Only once in the last five years have the English Premiership leaders reached the quarter-finals of this competition, and Wenger insisted his players think only of winning in Milan and not of results that may or may not favour them elsewhere. "If we don't win, we are 90 per cent out," he said. "We just need a win. However, this won't change our attitude because we always play to win."
The Frenchman also wants revenge for a game which did not go Arsenal's way in September. "We gave away cheap goals against Inter. We had 20 shots on goal, 15 corners and missed a penalty, while Inter scored with their first two attempts," he said. And he is confident his charges can win on Italian soil as they did against AS Roma last season. "It is never easy to win in Italy but we did it last season and we can do it again."