Inter captain talks up magic of Mourinho

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The Independent Football

The Internazionale captain, Javier Zanetti, is glad to have Jose Mourinho back on the bench for tomorrow's Serie A match at Palermo.

The Nerazzurri beat Mourinho's former club Chelsea 1-0 at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night to claim a 3-1 aggregate win and progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time in four years.

That game marked Mourinho's return to the touchline, the Portuguese coach having served a three-match ban in the league. And his absence has been felt as Inter have collected just four points from those games.

"Mourinho helps us to win," said Zanetti. "He is very experienced and his support is very important to us."

On the win over Chelsea, the Argentine added: "I think we have sent out an important message. To beat (Chelsea manager Carlo) Ancelotti's team twice is quite an achievement."

But the Nerazzurri must now put the euphoria of knocking out Chelsea behind them and focus on the Palermo game as Milan are breathing down their necks. Should Inter fail to win tomorrow, Milan could move above their city rivals and into top spot for the first time this season.

Milan edged Chievo 1-0 last weekend after the Nerazzurri lost 3-1 at Catania, and that win helped the Rossoneri to narrow the gap on Inter to just one point.

While Inter will be tested by a Palermo side that have yet to lose at La Favorita this season, Milan take on Napoli at the San Siro hoping to overcome the losses to injury of David Beckham and Alessandro Nesta.

The veteran England midfielder tore his Achilles tendon on Sunday night and will miss the rest of the season and the World Cup, while Nesta is out for a month with a knee injury.

"We hope their absences will give us more strength to repay their efforts with many more wins this season," said Clarence Seedorf, the midfielder who scored the stoppage-time winner against Chievo.

Roma are at home to Udinese and looking to get back in the title race after last weekend's 3-3 draw at Livorno. They are in third place, six points behind Inter with 10 games remaining.

Juventus, who make the journey to Genoa to face Sampdoria, will be looking for a helping hand from Inter as they attempt to climb into fourth place.

The Bianconeri, who threw away a three-goal lead and had to settle for a point at the bottom side Siena last weekend, are one point adrift of Palermo, who hold the last Champions League qualifying spot.

Fiorentina host Genoa at the Artemio Franchi stadium on Saturday with both clubs vying for a place in Europe next season. The Viola are four points behind seventh-placed Genoa.

Bari and Parma meet at the San Nicola, while Lazio travel to Cagliari knowing a defeat coupled with a Livorno triumph at Atalanta could see them drop into the relegation zone. The Roman side have failed to win in their last four games and are only two points clear of 18th-placed Livorno.

Also on Sunday Chievo will be desperate to avoid their third straight defeat when they take on Catania in Verona, while Siena are at home to Bologna and looking to extend their unbeaten run to six games. The Tuscans are four points adrift of safety.