Football: Inter still riven by self-doubt

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MANCHESTER UNITED'S chances of progressing to the semi-final of the European Cup appeared to improve yesterday as self-doubt emerged within the ranks of their quarter-final opponents Internazionale, and fresh concerns arose over the fitness of the Italian side's Brazilian striker, Ronaldo.

Perhaps most worrying for Mircea Lucescu's side, as they seek to overcome the 2-0 deficit they picked up in the quarter-final first leg at Old Trafford a fortnight ago, were the comments made by one of their own players, Paulo Sousa.

"We're lacking a game plan," the Portuguese midfielder said. "No one knows which movements to make and that's very serious at our level. It's not enough to send 11 players on to the pitch and say to them: `play'. No one knows what the others are doing."

Paulo Sousa added that his side will need to show a marked improvement on their 2-2 draw in the Milan derby at the weekend to stand any chance of stifling the ambitions of Alex Ferguson's side. "If we repeat our derby performance, we are certain to lose against Manchester United," he said.

Paulo Sousa did not play in the derby and has been out of action for most of the season through injury and lack of form, but may be recalled to Lucescu's side against United.

Inter are banking on Ronaldo's return to take them past Ferguson's men and into their first European Cup semi-final in 18 years, but Paulo Sousa said that even the Brazilian's presence was unlikely to be no enough to inspire his side. "We are all happy that Ronaldo is back," the Portuguese playmaker added, "but he alone can not put us in the semi-final."

Whether Ronaldo will actually play much of a role tomorrow remains to be seen. He suffered a headache yesterday that was severe enough to keep him from training.

"Ronaldo didn't train with his team-mates because he felt poorly," an Inter spokesman said. "He had a headache and didn't sleep well last night."

Although it is unlikely that the Brazilian's problem will keep him from the starting line-up in San Siro, any news of further problems for the Inter player will worry his side.

Ronaldo played only 45 minutes in Saturday's 2-2 derby against Milan, his first start in Serie A start since 17 January. Although the knee tendinitis problems that plagued his World Cup last summer may be on the mend, he still appears to be some way from match fit. If he starts, as expected, alongside Chile's Ivan Zamorano, it is not clear how long he will last.

"I'm not at 100 per cent and everyone knows it," Ronaldo said. "But I'm getting better and I feel good. I don't know how many minutes I'll play on Wednesday but I'll give my all. This is the match of the year."

Ronaldo added, ominously in light of Paulo Sousa's comments: "I need the best Inter possible behind me. A squad that believes in itself from start to finish."

Inter are without a win in their last eight games, including the 2-0 first-leg defeat in Manchester two weeks ago. The six defeats and two draws in that sequence would be bad enough, Lucescu also has to contend with a number of injuries. The veteran striker Roberto Baggio and the winger Francesco Moriero, the two players other than Ronaldo most capable of creating scoring chances, are both less than 100 per-cent fit. It is likely one will start and the other will be on the bench.

The Brazilian midfielder Ze Elias has a sprained right ankle and the captain Giuseppe Bergomi has a stomach virus. Both men's ailments might prevent them from taking part tomorrow. Ferguson is unlikely to be feeling much sympathy.