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Inter look to put league blues behind them

sports Updated: Nov 01, 2011 08:57 IST

AFP
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Inter Milan will be looking to put their Serie A troubles to one side as they try to close in on qualification for the Champions League knock-out rounds against Lille on Wednesday.

Inter lie fourth from bottom after a disastrous start to their league campaign in which they have won two and lost five of their nine games so far.

They also had a poor start to their Champions League campaign when they fell to a 1-0 home loss to outsiders Trabzonspor, although they have since recovered.

Victories away to CSKA Moscow and Lille have put the Italians in pole position to progress from Group B and a victory on Wednesday would all but mathematically assure their name goes into the pot for the second round draw.

But this is a team with fragile confidence who have managed only one home win all season, against minnows Chievo, and even that was only by a single goal.

They have proved more clinical than their opponents in their last two European games but have not been visibly superior.

Plus they have lost two straight home games in Europe, including last season's 5-2 quarter-final humiliation at the hands of Schalke 04.

However, leading the group by two points and with two homes games out of three to come, puts them in a strong position.

Lille, on the other hand, are in the last chance saloon.

They sit bottom of the group on just two points and knowing that a defeat would virtually end their chances of progressing.

They have already thrown away leads against CSKA and Trabzonspor, drawing games they could have won before also losing at home to Inter.

Even a draw would see them facing an uphill battle to finish in the top two in the group so they are going to need to attack.

One thing that may also encourage them, other than Inter's awful league form, is the fact that Inter have also lost three out of their last five home matches against French opposition, winning only one.

The Italians have at least improved their shoddy defence -- the third worst in Serie A -- conceding just three goals in their last four games in all competitions.

But Ranieri believes they are paying for a turbulent summer in which they changed coaches, lost striker Samuel Eto'o, only replacing him with Diego Forlan, who subsequently got injured, at the end of the transfer window, followed by another change of coaches a month into the season.

"This moment has been affected by a difficult summer for us from commitments to injuries," said Ranieri.

"We know we can't look at the (league) table but must just keep taking it one game at a time.

"I believe in this squad, that we can climb back up the table. We have to wait and see where we are at Christmas, I believe in these players and in their pride."

It is only 18 months since Inter lifted the Champions League but that was under Jose Mourinho.

Since he left they have had four different coaches and have steadily got worse as a team.

Following five straight league titles they finished second last season while in this campaign they already have an uphill battle to finish in the top three and qualify for next season's Champions League.

They may even need to win it this season to be in the next competition.