Downbeat Italians fear Champions League foes

Now we know what Silvio Berlusconi felt like when he was walloped with a model of Milan cathedral.

No doubt Jose Mourinho and Leonardo had a similar look of utter shock and disbelief when the names of Chelsea and Manchester United were drawn out by Emile Butragueno.

On the face of it, it looks likes another bloodied nose for Serie A in the Champions League, and the groans around the city of Milan all but spoilt Friday lunchtime.

A quick straw-poll found the fans of both teams staring gloomily into their plates of pasta, with the general consensus being: “We’re out.”

Well, what do you expect if you don’t finish top of your group – but then again look at Fiorentina’s opponents: Bayern Munich qualified with a 4-1 away win. Against Juventus.

Maybe the only ones smiling were Juve Ã¢Â€Â“ consigned to the Europa League (and facing Ajax), they can concentrate on their domestic form, although the reaction to the main draw suggested that Inter, Milan and Fiorentina can do likewise.

There's no use getting our noses out of joint, but Italian football has become conditioned to fearing the worst after last year’s debacle in the Champions League.

Evoking the romance - if we can use such a term - of the encounters facing the Milanese clubs did little to lighten the mood around the lunch table.

David Beckham back at Old Trafford... “So what? He’s only at Milan for a few months.”

What about Jose Mourinho striding out at Stamford Bridge, then? “Would have been better at Seville or Bordeaux.”

Suddenly, everyone has lost their appetite for the battle ahead just because the little balls didn’t pop out the way they should have.

However, like the dear prime minister, it may be best to lie low for a while and take stock of what's ahead come February and March – at least Inter, Milan and Fiorentina know what lies in wait.

It will be interesting to see if Massimo Moratti will now loosen the purse strings and allow Mourinho to bring in a few new signings to ensure that the Nerazzurri have cover through the early part of the year - what with Samuel Eto’o and Sulley Muntari heading to the African Cup of Nations.

AC Milan have maintained that Beckham will be their only addition in January, and although they creaked like an old door last time out at Zurich, Leonardo can still draw heart from a vintage Rossoneri performance in Madrid.

Fiorentina could have expected something a little kinder than the Bundesliga giants who seem to be running into form, but at least Cesare Prandelli has seen his side produce excellent performances at home to Liverpool and Lyon in the competition so far. More to read...

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