FC Internazionale Milano may have lost in the first knockout round for the last two seasons but Javier Zanetti is confident of stopping the rot against Manchester United FC. "This match has come at the right time," he said.
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FC Internazionale Milano may have lost in the first knockout round of the last two UEFA Champions League seasons, but captain Javier Zanetti is confident of stopping the rot against holders Manchester United FC, insisting: "This match has come at the right time for us."
Detractors might suggest that when it comes to the knockout phase, Inter suffer from stage fright. Successive defeats by Villarreal CF and Liverpool FC have ended their involvement before even the quarter-finals and with Tuesday's opponents arriving in Milan as European champions, the Nerazzurri again have their work cut out to reach the last eight.
However, Inter are sitting pretty, nine points clear in Serie A, and Zanetti says they are not dwelling on the past. "We are looking forward, not back," he said. "We have a great chance of winning. We are in great form, we won our last league game and this side has great desire. This match has come at the right time for us. Manchester United are undoubtedly a great side and we respect them, but there is no fear in the camp. We have prepared for the match in great detail and I believe we have everything right to win this match."
Long-serving Zanetti was in the last Inter team to face United, ten years ago, and remembers well the 3-1 aggregate quarter-final defeat, both for the result and for the fact he will renew acquaintances with three other veterans of that tie. "Unfortunately, I have bad memories of that match," he said. "[Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs] have played a key part in the history of Manchester United and I have great admiration for them."
The Nerazzurri skipper is not short of admirers himself and is also showing few signs of slowing down. Zanetti's continued importance to the cause is reflected by his being the only player to have played every minute of this season's league campaign. Another remarkable achievement should be celebrated on Tuesday if Zanetti breaks Giuseppe Bergomi's club record by making his 118th European appearance for La Beneamata. The 35-year-old will sport a commemorative armband to mark the occasion, but is more focused on United and their danger man, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo is capable of making the difference at any given moment," Zanetti said. "He is a fantastic player but it's important we keep it tight all over the pitch and don't give anyone space to cause us problems. If we do that we can also think about inflicting some damage ourselves. They are one of the best sides in Europe but we are good enough to go through. At Inter we aim high and always look to improve, so this is a great opportunity for us to show just how good we really are."