Football : Hodgson's Inter fear

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The Independent Online
Internazionale must get back to winning ways when they face Udinese at home today or their English coach, Roy Hodgson, can forget about winning the Italian championship in his first season in charge.

Inter go into the game in third place, just five points behind the Serie A leaders, Juventus, but still smarting from a 2-0 home defeat by Bologna last Sunday. That defeat followed a slump in form which has seen Hodgson's side pick up 11 out of a possible 27 points in nine games since mid-November.

Giuseppe Bergomi, Inter's veteran Italy defender, realises that it's now or never for the Milan giants. "Frankly, at this point in the season, I would have thought we'd have more points than this. Clearly Juventus are the side to beat. They've managed to limit the damage of a mini-crisis and are going well again."

Hodgson must decide between Paul Ince and Aron Winter in midfield. Ince has missed three games through suspension but is expected to return in place of Winter alongside the Swiss playmaker Ciriaco Sforza, Salvatore Fresi and Youri Djorkaeff.

Udinese are without their main striker Oliver Bierhoff, who scored twice for Germany in the final of Euro 96, Poland's defender Marek Kozminski and the Egyptian midfielder Hazem Emam, all injured.

Udinese go into the game in 13th place, four points clear of the relegation zone, and will hope to overcome a terrible record at the San Siro where they last won a league game in November 1957.

It should be easy day for Juventus, however, as they host the bottom side, Reggiana. With Alessandro Del Piero suspended and the Croatian striker Alen Boksic out until March, Nicola Amoruso and Michele Padovano take over in attack. Reggiana rely on the experience of the ex-AC Milan trio, Fernando De Napoli, Gianluca Sordo and Filippo Galli, along with Romania's Ioan Sabau.

In France, Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain play in the key match of the championship that PSG cannot afford to lose. After a string of poor results, PSG will fall seven points behind their hosts if they lose. Their manager, Ricardo, whose resignation was turned down after the 6-1 humiliation 10 days ago by Juventus in the European Super Cup, is not giving his feelings away. In contrast Monaco's coach, Jean Tigana, is looking forward to the match: "The only pressure we're feeling is in the beer we're going to drink afterwards. It will be a very tight, physical match and it will be played in the best spirit."

Both will be deprived of one of their defenders through injuries - Alain Roche for PSG and Philippe Leonard for Monaco.