Eto'o struggling to convince Mourinho

MILAN - Inter Milan striker Samuel Eto'o will be careful what he wishes for this weekend given a starting spot against Sampdoria on Saturday might hit his chances of facing Chelsea in the Champions League next week.

The Cameroonian has only been a partial success at the Serie A leaders since swapping clubs with Barcelona's Zlatan Ibrahimovic in July.

Injuries, the African Nations Cup and Inter signing fellow forward Goran Pandev in January have all limited his recent opportunities and it is now unclear whether coach Jose Mourinho sees Eto'o as his first-choice striker.

"Today it's not easy being one of my forwards given how well the others are doing, Eto'o shouldn't think he has a red carpet waiting for him. He has to be 100 percent physically," Mourinho told reporters recently.

The coach could rotate his tired squad for Saturday's home match with one eye on Wednesday's last 16 first leg clash with former side Chelsea, meaning a return to the lineup for Eto'o would not necessarily lead to a start in the Champions League.

Pandev has netted three times in Serie A since pairing up with fellow in-form striker Diego Milito, settling in better than Eto'o despite the Cameroonian's eight league goals.

"I miss the life I had at Barcelona. But despite these difficulties I am trying to adapt to the reality in Milan," Eto'o told World Soccer this week as he was nominated for the African footballer of the year award.

In constrast to Eto'o, talismanic midfielder Dejan Stankovic will be keen to play Samp and prove his fitness for the Chelsea game having been out for a month with a calf muscle problem.

Inter's lead over second-placed AS Roma has been whittled down to seven points after two successive draws and fifth-placed Samp visit in good form.

The Genoa-based side were top at the the start of a season, when they beat Inter 1-0 at home, before suffering a poor spell and then recovering with four wins in a row.

Antonio Cassano remains injured even if coach Luigi Del Neri has said he will not pick him until he adapts to tactics.

Roma host lowly Catania on Sunday while third-placed AC Milan try to recover from their Champions League first leg defeat by Manchester United at Bari.

Juventus visit Bologna following last weekend's first win under coach Alberto Zaccheroni against Genoa.