Inter Milan’s season has been so up and down few fans would be shocked if they put on a stunning show at Olympique Marseille in Wednesday’s Champions League (CL) last-16 first leg despite poor recent form.
FIFA-ranked Turkish referee Cüneyt Çakır will be officiating this match. The 35-year-old Çakır made his UEFA debut as the fourth official in the UEFA Champions League qualifying round game between Skonto FC and Sliema Wanderers FC in July 2003. The 2010 European champions have lost their last two Serie A home games in embarrassing fashion, going down 1-0 to relegation-threatened Novara and then being outplayed 3-0 by strugglers Bologna.
The defeats have led some supporters to call for coach Claudio Ranieri’s dismissal despite the former Chelsea, Juventus and AS Roma coach having previously revitalised the club after a dreadful start to the season under Gian Piero Gasperini. Inter rose from the lower reaches of Serie A to the top four but now they are back down in seventh, with the Champions League looking like the only trophy they can win having also been dumped out of the Italian Cup as holders.
“There is a good team here and the club is healthy and strong,” Ranieri told Italian TV. The coach then turned his attentions to fit-again Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder who has been in and out of the team in recent weeks.
“He’s not a problem but a solution -- but at the right time,” said Ranieri. “I think an Inter coach is duty-bound to try to integrate players with a special quality. “I’ll have to take some decisions and I will,” added the coach who may be glad his aging team is away in the first leg.
Also on Wednesday, Bayern Munich’s Champions League visit to Basel has all the ingredients for an upset, with the Bavarians in the middle of a rocky patch. Bastian Schweinsteiger’s injury, Arjen Robben’s loss of form and a dull goalless draw at Bundesliga strugglers Freiburg on Saturday combine to make Bayern look vulnerable. Basel has already pulled off one shock this season by taking four points out of six from Manchester United in the group stages to qualify for the last 16 at the expense of the Premier League side.