A repeat of last year’s final. Both teams not where they want to be in the league. Chance to put domestic chors to one side and relive the final from May. Secret Interista Gav Stone famed editor of the Les Rosbifs website looks at how the Nerazzurri will fare.

It is a different Inter side who will be up against Bayern Munich this time around in the Champions League, compared to the one who beat The German side in the final last May. In between the Mourinho/Milito masterclass in Madrid and the first leg of this last 16 fixture, the nerazzurri have also been through a soul-sapping stint in the hands of Rafa Benitez, which did the club nor the coach any favours.

Since the FIFA World Club Cup triumph in December, Inter have enjoyed something of a domestic resurgence under Brazilian coach Leonardo, even if their recent performances have left a lot to be desired. The 1-0 loss to Juventus a fortnight ago put the dampeners on the work the coach has done to steady a ship that had been listing badly. Yet the players still look reinvigorated – something unexpected after the lethargic displays under Benitez – and charged.

The 1-0 success over Cagliari at the weekend was typical Inter: in the face of a team determined to get something out of a trip to San Siro, they went through the match in cruise control. There’s certainly more in the tank from the team, although it is fair to say that the eleven who start against Bayern will be starkly different to those who beat the rossoblu. Having said that, injuries are taking their toll on the squad of late.

It is rather difficult to decipher what team Leonardo will line-up with, what with injuries and some tactical changes in recent matches giving scope to change. Against Cagliari, it was 4-2-3-1, with the forward line led by 20 million Euro man, Giampaolo Pazzini. He’s ineligible due to turning out for Sampdoria earlier in the competition, so a forward pairing of Goran Pandev and Samuel Eto’o looks likely. It is feasible that the Cameroonian top scorer could move out wide in a 4-3-1-2 system, which Leonardo prefers, but options are limited going forward, especially with the fitness of Wesley Sniejder and Diego Milito uncertain.

Walter Samuel is out for the season so expect 23 year old Andrea Ranocchia to continue in his place in central defence, alongside Ivan Cordoba, although Lucio may yet return from his thigh problem. Yuto Nagamoto, so impressive for Inter since his January move from Cesena and in the Asian Cup for Japan, could be set to see some action in this match, and is an increasingly viable alternative to Cristian Chivu. Those old workhorses, Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso, will be covering every blade of grass as always.

In all, the starting XI will be decided at the very last minute by the coach. However, fans of the nerazzurri are just glad to see that Inter 2011 are, at least, playing with more passion and in greater spirits under Leonardo. As such, early-season Champions League form – including those bizarre matches against Tottenham Hotspur – should be cast aside. Whether injuries and the unsettled team these inevitably bring dampens the feel-good factor remains to be seen.

Roma’s come back win in the Stadio Olimpico was the only blot on Bayern’s record as they stormed to the last sixteen of the Champions League. Terry Duffelen genius behind Bundesbag from the Football Fairground and voice on the Sound of Football podcast, weighs up Bayern’s chances against Leonardo’s Inter.

Many, myself included, looked on at Bayern Munich’s journey to the Champions League Final with dismay. Between a compliant referee in the Fiorentina game and a bizarre evening of self implosion against Manchester United, Louis van Gaal’s “typical Germans” pitched up at the Bernabeau, dragged by the scruff of the neck by the magnificent Arjen Robben with the hapless Martin Demichelis hanging off the back, to use modern parlance.

After their defeat to Inter, I thought that van Gaal, being no fool, would see the obvious faults in the Bayern defence and correct them. The central defensive partnership of Daniel van Buyten and Martin Demichelis should have been broken up and replaced by the upcoming Holger Badstuber and another, more experienced player like Heiko Westermann or Arne Freidrich who are more than capable of leading a new defensive line to another Bundesliga title.

Instead van Gaal has played a mixture of van Buyten, Badstuber and Demichelis (until the Argentine was shipped out to Malaga in January) and curiously, Anatoliy Tymoschuk who is, ultimately, a defensive midfielder. In Bayern’s last game, where they surrendered a two goal lead and lost 3-2 against a struggling Koln side, new signing Luiz Gustavo, from Hoffenheim, who everyone thought was recruited to replace Marc van Bommel in the centre of midfield, played at left back.

In a way it is understandable that van Gaal chose to keep faith with lasts season’s defensive players, at least earlier in the season. After all, Bayern did win the domestic double. But this does not account for their championship rival’s inability to press home their advantage (Bayer Leverkusen) or simply running out of steam (Schalke). It is reasonable to say that the aforementioned Robben along with Bastian Schweinsteiger, the emerging Thomas Muller and yes, Mario Gomez pulled through for FC Bayern, rather than any defensive virtue.

Of course, missing from this jigsaw is Franck Ribery. The French flanker has had injury problems, a wretched World Cup and a few questions to answer regarding his private life. However, should Ribery and Robben (or Robbery as they are known) get their groove on for the remainder of this season then there are fewer more potent attacks in World football. This will crucial if Bayern are to be successful in the Bundesliga.

However, in the Champions League, against Inter, it is difficult see Bayern’s makeshift defense coping with the challenges set by the European Champions, reinvigorated under new coach Leonardo. After all, if they can’t keep track of FC Koln’s Milivoje Novakovic, then it’s hard to see them dealing with Samuel Eto’o, Wesley Sneijder and co.

Mind you, people said much the same thing, this time last year.

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February 23rd, 2011

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by bundesbag, Gav, Ian Walsh , Scott Johnston, Andrew Gibney and others. Andrew Gibney said: *NEW POST* Inter Milan v Bayern Munich: Champions League Preview by @lesrosbifs and @bundesbag http://bit.ly/eDkiM9 RT's welcome [...]

February 24th, 2011

Inter Milan v Bayern Munich – Champions League Preview ……

Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……

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