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Fenerbahçe wary of wounded Inter

Fenerbahçe SK face depleted opponents in their Group G opener but Zico feels the presence of Zlatan Ibrahimović still makes FC Internazionale Milano favourites.

Fenerbahçe coach Zico believes Zlatan Ibrahimović can give Inter the edge
Fenerbahçe coach Zico believes Zlatan Ibrahimović can give Inter the edge ©Getty Images

Fenerbahçe SK may be facing a depleted FC Internazionale Milano in their UEFA Champions League Group G opener on Wednesday but home coach Zico still feels the visitors to Istanbul are the favourites, mainly due to a certain Zlatan Ibrahimović.

Reshaped defence
Roberto Mancini is being forced to reshape his Inter defence as Marco Materazzi has a thigh injury and Cristian Chivu is out with a shoulder problem, while Nicolás Burdisso, Maicon and Iván Córdoba are all suspended. Javier Zanetti will drop back from a midfield also missing Patrick Vieira because of a thigh injury, and Colombian Nelson Rivas will make his Inter debut in the most testing of circumstances. However, the presence of Sweden striker Ibrahimović up front is a comfort to Mancini and a major headache for Zico, the coaches agree.

Star striker
Mancini said: "In my opinion he is the best player in the world. He finishes well, he is quick and he can beat defenders. He is yet to win the Ballon D'Or but I think he is going to win it once or twice in the coming years." Zico added: "I have kept his last goal for [AFC] Ajax when he beat five defenders and will show it to my children as an example."

'Not for individuals'
Furthermore the Fenerbahçe coach, well familiar with Italian football from his time with Udinese Calcio, not only believes that Inter will be a far from weakened team but he has tipped them to lead the way into the knockout stages. "Some of their defenders are out, but if someone plays for Inter they are a star," Zico said. "They are Italian champions and modern football is about team play – it's not a game for individuals." The Brazilian legend was prepared to go further still in his praise of Mancini's squad as they vie with the Turkish champions, PSV Eindhoven and PFC CSKA Moskva in this pool, saying: "In my opinion, Inter are the favourites to win the group. We want to be the second team to qualify after them."

Selection question
Zico, who is likely to field Roberto Carlos against his former club, has slight doubts over midfielders Deniz Barış and Tümer Metin due to groin and knee complaints respectively, yet the main question is one of formation. Fenerbahçe's usual 4-4-1-1 formation was replaced by a 3-5-2 on Saturday although the 1-1 home draw with struggling Rizespor suggests the experiment may be short-lived. "We will train on Tuesday night and then I will decide," Zico said.

New tactics
Inter defeated Calcio Catania 2-0 at the weekend but the enforced changes to that lineup mean Mancini will adopt different tactics. "We cannot play against Fenerbahçe like we did against Catania," the coach admitted. "We defended very well in that game, but we are missing players at the back in Istanbul so we have to play further forward." Walter Samuel is at least poised to make a comeback from a calf injury and should partner Rivas.