Ribéry return boosts Bayern for rerun of final with revived Inter
Wednesday 23 February 2011
Internazionale and Bayern Munich meet in a rematch of last year's Champions League final tonight in the first leg of the round of 16. Inter, the defending champions, will be without Diego Milito, who scored two goals in the final but has a hamstring strain, while for Bayern, Franck Ribéry, who missed the final through suspension, returns from injury.
"Both teams have changed a bit and will be missing important players," Inter midfielder Dejan Stankovic said yesterday. "We heard from [Munich coach Louis] van Gaal yesterday how important the return of [Arjen] Robben and Ribéry has been and how much strength they add. We are more or less the same apart from Diego. It will be a tough match, well balanced and the tactics each side chooses will be important, but we are confident."
Lucio and Wesley Sneijder – another two mainstays of the team that won the Champions League under Jose Mourinho's guidance – should be back after sitting out the 1-0 win over Cagliari as part of their recuperation.
Argentinian centre-back Walter Samuel's absence with a knee injury has been noticeable and Andrea Ranocchia has yet to convince as his replacement since he joined from Genoa in the transfer window.
"We have to play well to give ourselves the advantage ahead of the away leg," Inter defender Ivan Cordoba said. "We can't expect Bayern to give us much room, so we will have to work hard to create space and match their players from the kick-off." Despite the injuries, resurgent Inter have been in good form since Leonardo took over from Rafa Benitez and have moved up to third place in Serie A, five points behind leaders and neighbours Milan, after nine wins in 11 games since the start of 2011.
"We are tired out from all these matches, but going back into the Champions League is something different," Stankovic said. "I'd be happy with a 1-0 win." Munich have concerns over the fitness of top scorer Mario Gomez after the striker injured his ankle in Bayern's 3-1 win at Mainz on Saturday. However, the striker was quick to play down concerns that he would miss the match at San Siro.
"The pain's completely gone away," Gomez said. "It was a bit swollen after the match, but it's OK again now. I don't think it will be a problem for Wednesday." If Gomez is unable to play, he is likely to be replaced by Germany striker Miroslav Klose, who has been left on the bench since Gomez hit form. "We have to wait to see if he can play," Van Gaal said. "Miro has been in very good shape." Klose also scored Germany's goal in the 1-1 draw with Italy on 9 February.
At the other end of the field, Van Gaal has concerns over his first-choice goalkeeper. Thomas Kraft was hit in the head in the Mainz match and came off at half-time. However, Van Gaal expects him to be fit. "He doesn't have a headache any more but still has some neck pain," Van Gaal said. "If Joerg Butt has to play, that's not a problem."
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