When the draw for the Europa League knock-out stages was made, the Irish Times reported that Andre Villas-Boas suggested that the match against Lyon should be considered “like a Champions League fixture”. Having defeated Lyon, the matches against Inter Milan have taken on even greater importance and are looking even more like Champions League games.
Inter Milan at White Hart Lane for the second time in three seasons shows he quality of teams left in this season’s Europa League. Tottenham’s match against the three times winners of the top club tournament in Europe is a mouth-watering experience. Spurs came out on top, on aggregate terms, in the two games in the group stages of the Champions League but both progressed to the knock-out stage of the tournament – Spurs as group winners and Inter as runners-up. This time there will be no second chance after two legs in the coming week – it will be ‘winner takes all’.
Inter Milan Serie A 2012-13
Inter are presently in 5th place in Serie A, 12 points behind leaders, Juventus, although they did defeat the leaders 3 – 1 in Turin in November. That success was their 7th successive win in Serie A but they lost their next match and recent form has been less impressive, although last weekend, they recorded another away win by defeating Catania 3 – 2. They were two down after a quarter of an hour but scored three second half goals to secure the points with Rodrigo Palacio coming off the bench to score twice.
Inter’s League Record this season:
P 27 W 14 D 5 L 8 For 44 Ag 36
Last season they finished 6th and so qualified for the Europa League, entering at the 3rd Qualifying Round.
Europa League 2012 – 13
In the 3rd Qualifying Round, Internazionale defeated Hadjuk Split 3 – 0 in the 1st leg in Split but lost 0 – 2 at home. In the play-off round they again won away against FC Vaslui of Romania (2 – 0) but drew 2 – 2 at home.
Like Tottenham, Inter finished second in their group, behind Rubin Kazan who knocked out the Europa League holders, Atletico Madrid, in the last round. Inter drew at home with Rubin (2 – 2) but lost 0 – 3 in Russia. They won both matches against Partisan Belgrade, 1 – 0 at home and 3 – 1 in Croatia. They defeated Neftchi Baku 3 – 1 in Azerbaijan and drew 2 – 2 in Milan. With 11 points, they finished three behind Rubin.
Drawn against a team dropping down from the Champions League, Inter had an emphatic 5 – 0 aggregate win over CFR Cluj of Romania. They took a two goal advantage into the away game but qualified easily with a three goal win. CFR Cluj had defeated Manchester United 1 – 0 at Old Trafford in their final group match.
Inter – the team:
Inter are a team which can call on players of great experience – they are captained by the 39 year old Argentine, Javier Zanetti.
Inter’s leading goal scorer in all competitions is the Argentine, Rodrigo Palacio who has 18 goals this season. He plays as a second striker or winger and has 7 goals to his name in the Europa League. Fredy Guarín, the Columbian midfield player, has 10 goals with 4 in European competitions. Another experienced Argentine, Diego Milito, has 9 goals as has Italian, Antonio Cassano.
Tottenham will be looking for another Champions League-like result against Inter to give them a comfortable advantage ahead of next week’s 2nd leg in Milan. It will not be easy but Tottenham have shown recently that they fear no-one and there is bound to be an element of uncertainty in the minds of the Inter players who played at White Hart Lane in November, 2010, especially when they hear of Gareth Bale’s exceptional recent performances. Just as Spurs hope for a repeat performance so Inter dread such an occurrence – a Gareth Bale inspired Tottenham.