Inter in crisis mode for Champions League opener

Inter Milan is already in crisis mode for its Champions League opener against Turkish debutante Trabzonspor on Wednesday.

Updated: September 13, 2011 17:54 IST
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Rome : Inter Milan is already in crisis mode for its Champions League opener against Turkish debutante Trabzonspor on Wednesday.

The 2010 champions lost their Serie A opener at Palermo 4-3 Sunday, allowing four goals for the first time in a league match in more than seven years.

Inter coach Gian Piero Gasperini was sharply criticized for his three-man defense and club president Massimo Moratti has suggested a change to a more traditional four-man back line for the upcoming match at the San Siro.

"It certainly wasn't the start we wanted, but we've just got to stay calm now and believe in the work we've put in," said 38-year-old Inter captain Javier Zanetti, who is in his 17th season with Inter. "We've got full faith in Gasperini and we're hoping to apply his ideas in a hurry."

With Samuel Eto'o gone to Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala, Inter also has to do without his main replacement, Diego Forlan. The Golden Ball winner at last year's World Cup is cup-tied after joining from Atletico Madrid.

Trabzonspor gained a spot in the group stage after Fenerbahce was removed by the Turkish Football Federation because it is under suspicion in a criminal probe into match-fixing.

In the other Group B match Wednesday, French champion Lille hosts CSKA Moscow, which is still mourning the Russian plane crash last week that killed 44 people, mostly members of a professional hockey team.

CSKA is also in crisis, following a 4-0 loss to crosstown rival Dynamo on Saturday that marked the club's biggest league loss in 10 seasons.

CSKA goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev suffered a season-ending left knee injury against Spartak Moscow two weeks ago and Sergei Chepchugov is struggling as a replacement.

Lille is back in the group phase for the first time since 2006-07 as a result of last season's league and cup double in France.

Inter's only previous meeting with Trabzonspor came in the first round of the 1984 UEFA Cup, with Trabzonspor winning 1-0 at home but Inter going through following a 2-0 return victory with goals from Alessandro Altobelli and Fulvio Collovati, who both played on the Italy squad that won the 1982 World Cup.

Current Trabzonspor coach Senol Gunes was the Turkish side's goalkeeper for both of those matches.

However, Gunes will miss this match as he begins a two-game ban, while striker Burak Yilmaz starts a three-game ban and midfielder Adrian Mierzejewski is suspended.

Still, the Turkish side is excited about its debut in Europe's top competition.

"We want to show the power of Trabzonspor to Europe as in former years," Hasan Yener, the club's general secretary, said before his team's departure for Italy on Monday. "We want to qualify for the knockout stage."

Trabzonspor's recent signings include Slovakia forward Robert Vittek, midfielder Didier Zokora from Sevilla, and left back Marek Cech from West Bromwich Albion.

Back in Italy, Gasperini was also criticized for keeping Wesley Sneijder on the bench at the start against Palermo, then sending the standout playmaker on for newly signed forward Mauro Zarate after only 34 minutes.

So in addition to a likely change in defense, Gasperini appears unsure who he wants to use in attack.

"I think he's the first one to realize, without pushing him, that he needs to find some remedies," Moratti said.

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