Leonardo to test theory in Italian Cup Final

ROME - Inter Milan coach Leonardo will get the chance to test his theory that his injury-ravaged side do not need wholesale changes when they take on giantkillers Palermo in the Italian Cup Final on Sunday.

The 41-year-old Brazilian, who has had to make do without a number of key players since taking over from Rafa Benitez in December, is confident his talented squad are capable of winning major trophies even though they recently relinquished their hold on the Serie A and Champions League titles.

"This team has achieved something huge this season," Leonardo told reporters. "We've been heavily penalised through a series of injuries but the team has shown great spirit. We struggled in the semi-final to overcome Roma but the final of the Coppa Italia will be a celebration.

"We don't need to bring in replacements (for next season). We just need to touch up a few areas to be competitive on all fronts but the nucleus of the team is already there and we won't interfere with that spirit."

The six-times Italian Cup champions lost centre-back Walter Samuel for virtually the whole season and fellow Argentine Diego Milito has struggled for fitness since scoring both goals in last season's Champions League Final win over Bayern Munich.

To add to their woes, goalkeeper Julio Cesar, defender Lucio and midfielders Wesley Sneijder and Esteban Cambiasso are all doubtful for the final with injuries while right-back Maicon is suspended.

While holders Inter have one last chance to salvage their disappointing season, Palermo have been on a rollercoaster ride thanks to eccentric president Maurizio Zamparini's actions which led to a coaching merry-go-round.

Delio Rossi was unceremoniously sacked following a 7-0 hammering by Udinese in February despite Palermo lying just outside the Europa League places.

Zamparini appointed Serse Cosmi as his replacement but just five weeks later Rossi was reinstated as coach and Palermo went on to beat AC Milan to reach the Italian Cup final.

NEW CONTRACT

"We know we are up against the world champions but if we can play at our full potential we can beat any team. The players really want to bring home the cup for our fans," Rossi told reporters.

However, after a brief honeymoon following his reinstatement more troubles are brewing between coach and president over the signing of a new contract.

According to reports in Italy, Genoa have approached Rossi, while Zamparini has talked about Bortolo Mutti, Edy Reja, Gian Piero Gasperini and Gigi Simoni taking over.

"Right now it makes no sense whatsoever to mention the names of other coaches," said Rossi. "It's just a waste of energy. The president knows what I think. Whatever I have to say I, unlike him, tell it to his face."

Zamparini tried to clarify the situation by saying: "There's a 60 to 70 percent chance of Delio Rossi staying. It won't depend on the result but we'll make the decision after the final so it doesn't affect the players. We have a plan A and a plan B."

Centre-back Cesare Bovo and midfielder Armin Bacinovic are both suspended but left-back Federico Balzaretti is expected to recover from injury.

The final could be the last time Palermo's two forwards - captain Fabrizio Miccoli and Argentine Javier Pastore - turn out in the team's pink-and-black colours.

While media reports linked Pastore with a possible move to Inter, Zamparini tried to stamp out the rumours in his own inimitable way.

"So (Inter president Massimo) Moratti likes Pastore... so does my grandmother and cousin. Sure, 30 million euros would be enough but only for his right foot," Zamparini said.


SHARES
comments