Stuttering Inter seek salvation against CSKA

MILAN - Inter Milan face the rare prospect of using Wednesday's Champions League quarter-final first leg against CSKA Moscow to boost their flagging domestic confidence rather than the other way round.

The Italian champions were imperious in eliminating Chelsea in the last 16 with a 1-0 win in London but their recent Serie A form has been poor by comparison.

Their lead at the top has been cut from nine points in mid-February to just a point following Saturday's 2-1 defeat at title rivals AS Roma, where Inter hit the woodwork three times but looked much more nervous than usual.

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It was all very different in the last three years when Inter were powering ahead in Italy while really struggling to impose themselves in Europe.

"Playing every three days isn't easy but our desire to win is stronger than the tiredness," Inter's leading scorer Diego Milito said ahead of the San Siro clash.

"Every match is hard and we mustn't underestimate anyone. We just have to think about ourselves."

Inter, who have not reached the semi-finals since 2003 and have an unbeaten home record this term, have Brazilian centre back Lucio and compatriot midfielder Thiago Motta suspended.

Left-back Davide Santon is injured while fellow teenage striker Mario Balotelli has been left in the cold for the last month after another falling out with coach Jose Mourinho.


CSKA have no worries about tiredness in their first European Cup quarter-final in 17 years with the Russian league in its early stages.

They should be at full strength with Chile winger Mark Gonzalez looking to shake off the muscle spasms which forced him to miss Friday's league win at Anzhi Makhachkala.

CSKA earned a hard-fought victory with goals from Japan midfielder Keisuke Honda and Czech striker Tomas Necid to move into a share of first place after three games of the season.

Full back Vasily Berezutsky was hoping the Italians would underestimate his side, who shocked many pundits by eliminating Spain's Sevilla in the previous round.

"Inter were probably very happy after being drawn to face us," the Russian international told Moscow media.

"I think they were already dreaming of a place in the semi-finals. That should suit us just fine. Sevilla also looked very confident prior to our matches but where are they now?"

Berezutsky also had a few words for Inter coach Mourinho, who travelled to Moscow last weekend to watch CSKA in action against city rivals Dynamo.

"We were told that Mourinho was in the stands so we tried to conceal our strengths on purpose," he said, referring to a drab 0-0 draw.

Probable teams:

Inter Milan: 12-Julio Cesar; 13-Maicon, 2-Ivan Cordoba, 25-Walter Samuel, 26-Cristian Chivu; 4-Javier Zanetti, 19-Esteban Cambiasso, 5-Dejan Stankovic; 10-Wesley Sneijder; 9-Samuel Eto'o, 22-Diego Milito

CSKA Moscow: 35-Igor Akinfeyev; 24-Vasily Berezutsky, 4-Sergei Ignashevich, 6-Alexei Berezutsky, 42-Georgy