Internazionale's 1-0 Champions' League defeat by Sporting Lisbon was only their third match of the season, but already the old doubts and demons are swirling around the side.
Earlier this week the Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho said the Italian champions' off-season transfer campaign had made them "the best squad in the world", and they fielded seven new signings against Sporting, including Patrick Vieira, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Hernan Crespo.
The result, however, was depressingly familiar. Inter played like a loose collection of individuals rather than a team, and were punished in the 64th minute when Sporting's defender Marco Caneira unleashed a dipping volley from outside the area that went in off the underside of the crossbar. Their frustration was palpable four minutes later when Vieira was sent off for a second bookable offence.
"I don't think we underestimated our opponents. We always had our feet on the ground," the Inter coach, Roberto Mancini said. "We should, however, have imposed ourselves on the match early on."
He can hardly have failed to notice, however, that the defeat was their third uneven performance in three matches so far this season. In the Italian Super Cup final last month Inter committed a series of defensive errors to go 3-0 down before battling back to beat Roma 4-3.
Last Sunday they opened their Serie A campaign with an edgy win over Fiorentina, establishing a 3-0 lead before conceding two late goals.
"We have learned that we are a team that must always play at full speed. We can't afford to take our foot off the accelerator," Mancini said.
Among the biggest problems facing Mancini is the slump in form of striker Adriano, which is threatening to become a permanent state of affairs. The Brazilian international mustered two shots against Sporting before being replaced by Crespo midway through the second half.
"I want more from him - like I want more from all the players, to tell the truth," Mancini said as he looked forward to Inter's second Group B match against Bayern Munich on 27 September. "It will be very tough against Bayern. We will be without Vieira and we will struggle to get [midfielder Esteban] Cambiasso back from injury.
"For now, though, there's no need to panic. We are only at the start and there is still time to turn things around."Reuse content