Inter and Bremen limp into San Siro clash
Defending champion Inter Milan and Werder Bremen enter their
Group A clash in the Champions League on Wednesday with serious
Inter striker Diego Milito strained his thigh in a last-minute
1-0 loss to AS Roma at the weekend, while fellow forward Goran
Pandev is also doubtful. Captain Javier Zanetti, Walter Samuel,
Marco Materazzi and Thiago Motto are all unavailable.
Milito and Pandev were included in Inter’s squad announced
Tuesday, although coach Rafa Benitez said he wouldn’t decide on
their status until match day.
Bremen will be without forward Claudio Pizarro, captain Torsten
Frings and defender Clemens Fritz.
Both sides began the group stage with 2-2 draws. Inter was held
at Dutch champion FC Twente and Bremen battled back from two goals
down to rescue a point against Tottenham.
This is the third time the two clubs have met in the group
stage, after 2004-05 and 2008-09, with one win each and two draws
Inter conceded a 90th-minute strike from Mirko Vucinic in
Saturday’s loss to Roma, which highlighted how thin a bench the
European champion has. Benitez has stuck with virtually the same
four players in attack for Inter’s first eight matches in all
competitions this season – Wesley Sneijder, Pandev, Samuel Eto’o
Another forward, Mario Balotelli, left for Manchester City and
the only significant signing Inter made during the offseason was
bringing in 18-year-old Brazil midfielder Coutinho, who needs time
to mature and grasp the European game.
”The good thing about football is that when a loss comes you
get the chance to prove right away to yourselves, to the fans and
the president that it was just a hiccup,” said Inter goalkeeper
Inter has not lost two consecutive matches since Feb. 2006, when
current Man City manager Roberto Mancini was in charge.
Benitez has had to face constant comparisons to Jose Mourinho,
who guided Inter to an unprecedented treble last season with the
Champions League, Serie A and Italian Cup titles.
Inter was criticized for playing for a draw at the end of the
loss to Roma, after having wasted several scoring chances earlier
”The squad is still dangerous when it has the ball, when it
attacks and on the counterattack, but we’ve got to work on being
more compact and improving the defense,” Benitez said.
With a match against Juventus looming on Sunday, Benitez doesn’t
have much time to switch things around.
Bremen has already tasted success in Italy this season, having
eliminated Sampdoria in the final qualifying round in August
courtesy of an injury-time goal from Pizarro.
Thomas Schaaf’s side ended a two-game losing streak with a 3-2
derby win against northern German rivals Hamburg on Sunday, but
Pizarro and Fritz both tore thigh muscles, while Frings bruised his
”This is a harsh blow to us, a huge loss of quality ahead of a
difficult trip,” said Schaaf, whose team fought back from a
two-goal deficit to draw 2-2 in its Group A opener at home against
The injuries leave Schaaf without three top defenders, with
Naldo yet to play this season due to a recurring knee issue and
Sebastian Boenisch ruled out for up to six months with knee
Bremen will have the services of Finnish international defender
Petri Pasanen, who missed the Hamburg contest with a knee injury.
Danish international Daniel Jensen will likely take over for Frings
just in front of the defense. Brazilian all-arounder Wesley is set
to play at right back, with Philipp Bargfrede replacing him in the
In attack, Schaaf has a couple of options to take the place of
Pizarro, with either Sandro Wagner or Marko Arnautovic playing
alongside Hugo Almeida.