Inter needs to beat Twente to save Benitez

Inter needs to beat Twente to save Benitez

Published Nov. 23, 2010 12:48 p.m. ET

Inter Milan manager Rafael Benitez could be in danger of losing his job if the struggling European champion doesn't beat Dutch side FC Twente on Wednesday.

Hit by a series of injuries to key players, Inter has fallen nine points behind city rival and AC Milan in Serie A and trails Tottenham on head-to-head goal difference in its Champions League group.

Inter suffered a humiliating 2-1 loss to Chievo Verona on Sunday, extending its winless streak in the Italian league to four matches.

"The manager and the squad need to understand that the Champions League match is very important, and that a great match is required," Inter president Massimo Moratti said. "Whether they're tired or not they need to play with a lot of anger because if not we can't go on like this."


Tottenham and Inter have seven points each atop Group A, FC Twente has five and Werder Bremen trails with two.

Tottenham hosts struggling Bremen in the other group match Wednesday but the focus will be on the defending champion.

"They absolutely have to win," said former Inter coach Jose Mourinho, who bolted to Real Madrid after leading the Milan club to a treble last season. "If they beat Twente and advance in the Champions League they have the basis to bounce back."

Italian media have already created a long list of possible candidates to replace Benitez. Former Chile coach Marcelo Bielsa heads the list, followed by current England coach Fabio Capello, Leonardo, manager of AC Milan last season, and Zenit St. Petersburg's Luciano Spalletti, formerly with AS Roma.

However, Moratti hasn't fired a coach midseason since letting go of Hector Cuper in Oct. 2003 and has voiced support for Benitez.

"Rafa has broad shoulders and is a serious person. He's trying to find solutions and in a month he could have 10 more players to choose from and things might be different," Moratti said.

Inter striker Samuel Eto'o was handed a three-match ban in the Italian league for head-butting a Chievo Verona opponent at the weekend, but the Cameroon international is free to play in Europe.

With fellow striker Diego Milito still working his way back from injury, Eto'o will likely spearhead an attack also featuring Goran Pandev and Jonathan Biabiany, with Wesley Sneijder in the playmaker position.

Sneijder was diagnosed with anemia after passing out at halftime of a Serie A match earlier this month, an incident attributed to exhaustion, but Inter can't afford to rest the Netherlands international, with fellow midfielders Coutinho and Thiago Motta out injured.

Also injured are goalkeeper Julio Cesar and defenders Maicon, Walter Samuel and Cristian Chivu.

Twente held Inter to a 2-2 draw in September in its first ever Champions League match and the defending Dutch champion lost for just the second time this season on Saturday, going down 2-1 at home to AZ Alkmaar.

Coach Michel Preud'homme has to rebuild his defense as left back Dwight Tiendalli and Sweden defender Rasmus Bengtsson are both out injured.

Tottenham has been one of the surprises in Europe thus far, led by Gareth Bale's four goals, plus three from Roman Pavlyuchenko.

Like Inter, Bremen is riddled with injuries and traveled to London with just 12 first-team players, plus six from the reserve side and one junior.

Werder is missing strikers Claudio Pizarro and Marko Arnautovic plus Naldo, Mikael Silvestre, Tim Borowski, Sebastian Boenisch due to injury, while captain Torsten Frings is suspended.

"I never had so many missing players," said coach Thomas Schaaf, who has guided Bremen since 1999.

The club has denied reports that Schaaf offered to quit after his team's 4-0 loss at Schalke on Saturday.