Following Saturday's superb win over Juventus, FC Internazionale Milano coach José Mourinho fears his side could fall prey to complacency on their return to action this evening. "It's not Panathinaikos I'm afraid of, it's us."
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In the wake of Saturday's superb victory at home to Juventus, FC Internazionale Milano coach José Mourinho fears his side could come back to earth with a bump as they return to the San Siro against Panathinaikos FC. "It's not Panathinaikos I'm afraid of," he said. "It's us."
Inter regained the Serie A summit with an impressive 1-0 defeat of Juve, Sulley Muntari's goal being enough to edge a match his team dominated throughout. It means the UEFA Champions League Group B leaders have still lost only once in all competitions this term, yet Mourinho has not forgotten the poor run of form that followed last month's 4-0 win at AS Roma.
"Our slump started after we played well against Roma," explained Mourinho. "Three days ago we had our best match of the season against Juventus and there is a real risk of going backwards again. That's football. Experience tells me that we must forget the Juve win. Panathinaikos must be our starting point. If we win we are through as group winners, if we draw we are also through, but we mustn't forget that if we lose we're in a lot of trouble."
In fact, were Anorthosis Famagusta FC and Werder Bremen to draw the other game in the group, Inter would advance even in defeat, but Mourinho's message is clear: "It's not Panathinaikos I'm afraid of, it's us. I'm not scared to say that we're a better team. We come from a different reality to theirs. The Greek league is not as good as Serie A and Inter want to win the Champions League – Panathinaikos do not. But great motivation can work miracles and a lack of motivation can create nightmares."
Cristian Chivu is out with a knee injury, an affliction which also accounts for Panathinaikos defender Bryce Moon while forward Cleyton has a foot problem. Inter old boy Giorgos Karagounis and Gilberto return after being rested in Saturday's 3-0 thrashing of struggling Thrasivoulos Fylis, in which summer signing Antonis Petropoulos marked his first start for the Greens with two goals. He only played because Vangelis Mantzios was sidelined by a thigh complaint, and Mantzios will be available against Inter.
Panathinaikos are intent on causing another shock after surprising Werder Bremen three weeks ago with their first away win in the competition in five years. That 3-0 victory lifted them into third place, four points behind Inter, and Panathinaikos coach Henk Ten Cate is determined to get one over the Italian outfit after Inter's 2-0 Matchday 1 triumph in Athens – a result he described as "lucky".
"I'm expecting the match to be like the one in Athens, only with a different outcome," said the Dutchman. "We were unlucky because we played better than Inter. We hit the bar and missed several chances. They had three opportunities and scored two, while we had six and scored none. But statistics don't win football matches, goals do. So we will go out there and fight like crazy for 90 minutes to get the right result." A loss would end his club's hopes of a knockout-stage place if Anorthosis beat Bremen.