Inter and Bayern seeking spirit of 2010

MILAN - The last time Inter Milan and Bayern Munich met, they were both 90 minutes away from the perfect season. This time they are just looking for salvation.

The Italian and German champions will contest the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Wednesday in a repeat of last year's final.

Inter's 2-0 victory at the Bernabeu that night gave the Nerazzurri the treble of Serie A, Italian Cup and Champions League while Bayern were left with the Bundesliga and German Cup double.

Nine months on, both teams are struggling to live up to such high standards.

Bayern's hopes of retaining the Bundesliga title look all but over having dropped 13 points behind leaders Borussia Dortmund.

"It's pretty much impossible for Bayern to win the Bundesliga this season in my opinion," forward Arjen Robben told Kicker magazine.

"I'd say that we have more chance of winning the Champions League than scooping the domestic title."

Inter, who fired Jose Mourinho's replacement Rafael Benitez in December, are third in Serie A, five points behind leaders AC Milan, although they have looked much brighter in attack since ex-AC Milan boss Leonardo took over.

Inter, who fielded eight South Americans in their starting line-up in last May's final, will be missing Argentine forward Diego Milito, who is out with a hamstring strain.

Milito, the scorer of both goals in the final, is likely to be replaced by Goran Pandev, with Samuel Eto'o the other forward.

Wesley Sneijder and Lucio missed Saturday's 1-0 Serie A win over Cagliari with knocks but are expected to return for the Bayern game given its importance, even if the Dutchman will not be 100 percent fit after a groin problem.

Cristian Chivu is available after a domestic ban, and his greater experience means he is likely to come in for Japan's Yuto Nagatomo at left-back.


Apart from a long-term injury to forward Ivica Olic, Bayern are at full strength, with Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben both available.

Flamboyant coach Louis van Gaal, however, refused to accept that his team are reliant on the "Robbery" duo, whose injuries were blamed for Bayern's poor first half to the season.

"In my opinion, we are not dependent on Robben and Ribery," Van Gaal said after Saturday's 3-1 win at Mainz 05.

"We have lots of good players and we need them all to play well. Footballers also need a good trainer."

Striker Mario Gomez, the Bundesliga's top scorer this season, said on Monday he was fit despite suffering an ankle injury against Mainz. Goalkeeper Thomas Kraft, who went off at half-time after a blow to the head, should line up for his first Champions League knockout tie.

Inter Milan: 1-Julio Cesar; 13-Maicon, 15-Andrea Ranocchia, 6-Lucio, 26-Cristian Chivu; 4-Javier Zanetti, 19-Esteban Cambiasso, 8-Thiago Motta; 10-Wesley Sneijder; 27-Goran Pandev, 9-Samuel Eto'o

Bayern Munich: 35-Thomas Kraft; 21-Philipp Lahm, 28-Holger Badstuber, 44-Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, 23-Danijel Pranjic; 31-Bastian Schweinsteiger, 10-Arjen Robben, 7-Franck Ribery, 30-Luiz Gust