Benitez: Milan were favourites in Istanbul too...

MILAN - Inter Milan coach Rafael Benitez has hit back at speculation big-spending AC Milan may now be stronger than last season's treble winners, reminding the Rossoneri about his hand in one of their darkest ever days.

Benitez was Liverpool boss in the 2005 European Cup final when the Premier League side came back from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 and win the Istanbul final on penalties.

"Football has changed a bit. This week I have heard it said that the Rossoneri are favourites to win everything," a smirking Benitez, who succeeded new Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho at Inter in the close season, told a news conference.

"They said the same in Istanbul when I faced the Rossoneri with Liverpool. They said it until the end of the first half of that match, but then something changed."

A lacklustre Inter drew 0-0 at Bologna in the first game of their Serie A title defence before the international break robbed Benitez of time to work with his players.

The European champions, who decided not to buy in the transfer window against Benitez's wishes, host Udinese in Serie A on Saturday when right-back Maicon is again an injury doubt.

Milan also play on Saturday because of next week's Champions League commitments but coach Massimiliano Allegri doubted he would play both new forwards Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho from the start at promoted Cesena.

"Ibrahimovic is fit and will play from the first minute," he said of the Swede who will lead his three-man attack. "Robinho could be a substitute for Ronaldinho or Alexandre Pato."

Both coaches were trying to get on with business as normal despite Serie A players announcing a strike on Friday for a fortnight's time in a collective contract dispute.

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