Mourinho seeks win to calm storm

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The Independent Football

The Serie A leaders Internazionale begin the second half of the league programme at San Siro tomorrow against struggling Sampdoria with pressure mounting on coach Jose Mourinho.

The Portuguese has overseen a series of unconvincing performances which culminated in last weekend's 3-1 humbling by mid-table Atalanta.

That defeat allowed second-place Juventus to close the gap to three points, ahead of Milan who trail Internazionale by six points. A home game against a team in 15th place would normally be considered a banker, but Inter go into the Sampdoria match against a background of rising tension, following an extraordinary outburst from Mourinho after the Atalanta defeat. In the changing room, he belittled Inter's recent league title successes in a volley of verbal abuse at his players.

According to La Repubblica, he told his team: "You won the first title [2005-06] in a court room, the second because there was no opposition and the third at the last minute. You're a shit team."

The tirade has transformed Mourinho into a cult hero among fans of Juventus, the club stripped of the 2006 title which was handed to Inter. "Mourinho – one of us" is the chant that Juventus fans have prepared for tonight's match against Fiorentina.

Inter's owner, Massimo Moratti, was said to have been furious when he found out about Mourinho's remarks. The president has a soft spot for his players and is uncomfortable with public criticism of them. After the Atalanta match, Mourinho ridiculed the veteran defender Ivan Cordoba.

He began by humbly announcing that the problem had been that "the coach was incapable". His own inability, though, extended no further than being "incapable of making a defender with 15 years of experience understand that when the opposition striker has his back to goal, you don't let him turn and shoot".