Serie A Week 27 - 7/3/09 (17.00 UK)
Genoa - Inter
With Juventus closing the gap to seven points and Champions League chasing Genoa unbeaten at home, could Inter’s Scudetto certainty be chipped away even further?
It has been a fiery week for the Nerazzurri, as Jose Mourinho drew criticism from all quarters for his seven-minute rant against the Italian media and suggestions his side was favoured in the 3-3 draw with Roma. They were trailing 2-0 and 3-1 in that game, but fought back to keep Juve at bay to the tune of seven points rather than the previous nine.
Genoa aren’t new to controversy either, as in the last few weeks they have been so angry at Fiorentina’s comeback from 3-0 down to 3-3 with the last kick of the game that their fans attacked the visiting team bus. Were it not for that Adrian Mutu hat-trick, the Grifone would now be in fourth place, but their push for an audacious Champions League slot continues apace.
Home form has been crucial so far, as the Rossoblu are unbeaten at Marassi this season with eight wins and four draws, scoring 25 goals and conceding just 10. Only Inter have a similar domestic record and the tie will be given extra spice by reports the visitors are preparing a massive summer bid for Diego Milito. The Argentine has scored 15 goals in 22 Serie A appearances in his debut top-flight campaign.
Mourinho has every reason to be worried about this trip, as Genoa held his men to a 0-0 draw at San Siro in October despite seeing Ivan Juric sent off an hour into the match and nearly won it with Julio Cesar’s last gasp saves.
Last season at Marassi it was a 1-1 scoreline with Inter midfielder Pele seeing red just before the break, confirming this is a fiery fixture with a total of 10 dismissals in 41 editions. The Nerazzurri haven’t won here since Jurgen Klinsmann decided a 2-1 result in May 1992, followed by two draws and as many defeats.
Inter showed in the Roma draw that they can score goals without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who missed that game with a slight muscular twinge. The giant Swede could be rested again ahead of the crunch match with Manchester United, as Mario Balotelli bagged a brace and Hernan Crespo proved he can still find the net even though he barely steps on to the field nowadays.
Walter Samuel is injured and Patrick Vieira sits out a ban, so Sulley Ali Muntari returns to the midfield. Marco Materazzi could make a comeback in central defence to rest Cristian Chivu, though Julio Cruz and Nelson Rivas are likely to be frozen out once more following their dismal Manchester United showing.
Genoa are missing Matteo Paro and Antony Vanden Borre, but basically have a full squad to choose from. Recently Gian Piero Gasperini has been starting with Giandomenico Mesto as part of the trident attack, making the most of his alternative role as a full-back, and bringing on Giuseppe Sculli when the opponents are tired. Bosko Jankovic should get the nod ahead of Raffaele Palladino and former Inter defender Matteo Ferrari protects Rubinho.
Keep an eye on: Diego Milito (Genoa) – El Principe said this week he is happy at Marassi and can prove it to his fans by scoring against the club that wants to tempt him away. Give Milito a chance and he will take it, so he will have been intrigued by the statistic that Inter have conceded five goals in three games.
Last season: Genoa 1-1 Inter
Form guide: Genoa (W L D W D) Inter (D W W W D)
Genoa (probable): Rubinho; Biava, Ferrari, Bocchetti; Rossi, Thiago Motta, Juric, Criscito; Mesto, Milito, Jankovic
Inter (probable): Julio Cesar; Maicon, Cordoba, Materazzi, Santon; Muntari, Cambiasso, Zanetti; Stankovic; Balotelli, Adriano