Mancini orchestrates Inter's title ambition

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The Independent Online

This optimism does not just stem from the 3-0 win over promoted Treviso on the opening day, even if Adriano's hat-trick augured well. Inter also eased through a tricky Champions' League qualifier against Shakhtar Donetsk and defeated Juventus in the pre-season Supercup.

Today Inter's squad, which has been boosted by the arrival of Luis Figo, face a test at the intimidating Favorita stadium of the Uefa Cup qualifiers, Palermo.

Inter's defence is weakened by injury to their captain, Javier Zanetti, and the suspension of his fellow Argentinian Walter Samuel.

In the capital, Luciano Spalletti makes his debut as Roma coach tomorrow against Udinese, the team he walked out on last season after taking them into the Champions' League.

The shaven-headed Spalletti has instilled a new spirit at Roma, unifying a previously discontented dressing-room. He hopes this will be confirmed this week by Antonio Cassano signing a new contract.

The champions, Juventus, are at Empoli and will expect to win despite injuries to Alessandro Del Piero and Jonathan Zebina. Milan, who have Christian Vieri suspended and Marek Jankulovski injured, are at home to Siena today.

Barcelona seek their first win, and first goals, of the new season at home to Real Mallorca tomorrow. The Spanish champions were held at Alaves in the opening round and Samuel Eto'o said they have to sharpen up to make a successful title defence. "We have to start showing our teeth, making sure we collect the three points," he said.

Real Madrid, at home to Celta Vigo today, are without Zinedine Zidane who suffered a groin strain playing in Dublin in midweek, and must give a fitness test to Ronaldo. Robinho will make his home debut while Sergio Ramos could be given a first start in defence.

Real's midweek Champions' League opponents, Lyon, claim they are focused on today's league game against Monaco.

"The Ligue 1 matches are always the most important ones," said their coach, Gérard Houllier. "If we think about anything else than Monaco we will lose," added Claudio Cacapa, their captain. Bottom-placed Marseilles, without a win in five games, visit Sochaux tomorrow.

In Germany Bayern Munich's 100 per cent record will be under threat today when they go to Nuremberg without Roy Makaay.

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