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Inter have top spot within their grasp

After coming close to an unexpected defeat against Anorthosis Famagusta FC on Matchday 4, FC Internazionale Milano can now confirm their passage into the knockout rounds at home to a reviving Panathinaikos FC.

Marco Materazzi was on target for Inter at Anorthosis
Marco Materazzi was on target for Inter at Anorthosis ©Getty Images

Having flirted with an unexpected defeat at Anorthosis Famagusta FC on Matchday 4, FC Internazionale Milano will look now to confirm their passage into the knockout rounds of the UEFA Champions League. Victory against a reviving Panathinaikos FC side would ensure they progress as winners of Group B.

• Winning the section – which would be the Italian club's fourth such feat in the last five campaigns – was a long way from Inter's minds in the GSP Stadium in their last fixture when the Cypriot underdogs took an improbable 3-2 lead five minutes into the second half through Nikolaos Frousos' goal. Ten minutes from time Julio Cruz rescued José Mourinho's side to leave Inter three points clear of Anorthosis at the top of the section.

• Mario Balotelli had given the visitors an early lead only for Nicolás Burdisso to slip and allow Cédric Bardon to level. Marco Materazzi put Inter ahead once more with Georgios Panagi finding a second equaliser before half-time.

• On the same night, Panathinaikos, who had just one point to show from their first three fixtures, won 3-0 in Germany against Werder Bremen to breathe new life into their own qualifying prospects. Vangelis Mantzios opened the scoring just before the hour with former Inter midfielder Giorgos Karagounis registering his first UEFA Champions League goal since February 2002 to make it 2-0. The third came seven minutes from time when Petri Pasanen turned an Alexandros Tziolis drive into his own net.

• A draw would also be enough to take Inter through to the next stage while they could also lose on the night and still progress, as long as the fixture in Cyprus between Anorthosis and Bremen ends in a draw.

• The game in Athens between the sides on Matchday 1 produced a 2-0 victory for the Serie A champions. Goals in each half from Mancini and substitute Adriano – both taking advantage of Zlatan Ibrahimović assists – gave Inter a contrasting start to the previous two seasons when they were opening-day losers on both occasions.

• Inter's ninth attempt to win the UEFA Champions League – their best achievement to date came in 2002/03 when they reached the semi-finals only to lose to their city rivals AC Milan – then continued as the Nerazzurri took on Bremen at San Siro. It ended 1-1 with the home team pegged back by Claudio Pizarro's equaliser – a player Mourinho had signed just over a year previously for Chelsea FC – to cancel out Maicon's 13th-minute goal. Adriano's header at home to Anorthosis three weeks later enabled Mourinho's men to get back to winning ways.

• Panathinaikos' victory in the Weserstadion was their first away win in the competition since a 3-1 triumph at Rangers FC in December 2003 and ended a run of seven away games that featured five defeats and two draws. After starting with the home defeat by Inter this time round they then made the short journey to Cyprus to take on Anorthosis. Two goals for the home team in the first 15 minutes put Henk ten Cate's team on the back foot and although Dimitris Salpingidis reduced arrears from the spot, Iraqi substitute Hawar Taher put the result beyond doubt with 12 minutes left.

• The first of their two fixtures with Bremen was a tense encounter with the Athens club denied by Hugo Almeida's late equaliser. The visitors had gone ahead at the OACA Spiro Louis Stadium when Per Mertesacker lashed in a free-kick. Two superb headers from Mantzios before and after half-time set up Panathinaikos for a first victory but Almeida had different ideas with a third headed goal of the night seven minutes from time.

• Inter have an unblemished record at home to Greek teams in UEFA club competition, winning every game. AEK Athens FC provided the opposition on all three occasions, Inter scoring a total of nine goals and conceding only two. The last contest, a fourth round UEFA Cup tie in 2001/02, ended in a 3-1 home victory.

• In eight visits to Italian sides Panathinaikos have still to taste victory with only draws at UC Sampdoria (1-1, 1991/92 European Champion Clubs' Cup Group 1) and Juventus (0-0, 1992/93 UEFA Cup second round) preventing a clean sweep of defeats. A crumb of comfort for the Greek side is that of those six reverses, only two have been by a margin greater than a single goal. Their last visit, in the group stage of the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League, resulted in a 3-0 defeat by Udinese Calcio.

• These opponents will stir fond memories for Mourinho because Panathinaikos were one of the sides his FC Porto team defeated en route to lifting the UEFA Cup in 2002/03. In the quarter-final the Greek side won 1-0 away from home to make themselves favourites to go through but Porto hit back to triumph 2-0 in Athens.

• When Mourinho left Chelsea after Matchday 1 in last season's competition he was replaced by Avram Grant with Ten Cate appointed as his assistant.

• Karagounis spent two seasons with Inter between 2003 and 2005, making 21 Serie A appearances for the Milan club.