Inter Milan without leading strike duo

Published Nov. 25, 2010 1:55 p.m. EST

Already without Diego Milito, Inter Milan begins a run of three games without leading striker Samuel Eto'o at home to Parma on Sunday.

Eto'o has hit 18 goals in all competitions for Inter but is suspended for three games after being caught on camera headbutting Chievo Verona defender Bostjan Cesar.

Last season's leading scorer Milito continues to struggle with a left leg strain that he picked up in Argentina's defeat by Japan in October.

Defending champion Inter is sixth in the league standings, nine points behind leader AC Milan, but progressed to the next stage of the Champions League on Wednesday, slightly easing the pressure on coach Rafael Benitez.


The 1-0 win over FC Twente ended a run of five matches without victory in the Champions League and Serie A.

Against Twente, Benitez played Eto'o on the left wing while Wesley Sneijder and Goran Pandev took the central roles and they are likely to continue the partnership at least until one of Eto'o or Milito returns.

"I thought those two players would cause more problems together in attack with their pace and movement," Benitez said. "I think they did (cause the Twente defense problems) and I think they did well together."

Inter will also be missing a number of other key players including goalkeeper Julio Cesar, defenders Walter Samuel, Maicon and Christian Chivu and winger Coutinho, but Benitez remains optimistic that the injury crisis is nearing its end.

"Hopefully now we will start seeing as many players as possible return because when the team had all its players available we played well," Benitez said.

Milan goes into its match with Sampdoria on Saturday in confident mood. Like Inter, Milan also qualified for the Champions League knockout rounds and so has three months to concentrate solely on the league.

"Now we have a very important run of matches, starting on Saturday with Sampdoria," Milan coach Massimo Allegri said. "Sampdoria is a difficult team to play and it beat Lecce in its last match.

"We have to recharge our batteries and go again."

Milan's 2-0 win over Auxerre was its third consecutive clean sheet, after 1-0 victories in the league against Inter and Fiorentina.

"It is now three games in which we haven't conceded a goal," defender Gianluca Zambrotta said. "Perhaps we were giving them away too easily before, but now we have a much better balance."

Second-place Lazio is at home to Catania and hoping to improve on its 1-1 draw with Parma in the last round of matches, that left it three points behind Milan.

"We have shown that the work we have done up till now is working by the results we have had so far," Lazio coach Edy Reja said. "We can't feel satisfied with what we have done until now though and we need to check and recheck what we are doing."

Also this weekend, it is Juventus vs. Fiorentina; Bari vs. Cesena; Bologna vs. Chievo Verona; Brescia vs. Genoa; Cagliari vs. Lecce; Udinese vs; Napoli; Palermo vs. AS Roma.