Sneijder the solution?
Inter manager Claudio Ranieri is hoping the fit-again striker will power the team past Marseille. How they stack upsports Updated: Feb 22, 2012 01:39 IST
Inter Milan's season has been so up and down few fans would be shocked if they put on a stunning show at Marseille in Wednesday's Champions League last-16 first leg despite poor recent form.
The 2010 European champions have lost their last two Serie A home games in embarrassing fashion, going down 1-0 to relegation-threatened Novara and then being outplayed 3-0 by strugglers Bologna.
The defeats have led some supporters to call for coach Claudio Ranieri's dismissal despite the former Chelsea, Juventus and AS Roma coach having previously revitalised the club after a dreadful start to the season under Gian Piero Gasperini.
Inter rose from the lower reaches of Serie A to the top four but now they are back down in seventh, with the Champions League looking like the only trophy they can win having also been dumped out of the Italian Cup as holders.
"There is a good team here and the club is healthy and strong," Ranieri told Italian TV.
The coach then turned his attentions to fit-again Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder who has been in and out of the team in recent weeks. "He's not a problem but a solution - but at the right time," said Ranieri. "I think an Inter coach is duty-bound to try to integrate players with a special quality. "I'll have to take some decisions and I will," added the coach who may be glad his ageing team are away in the first leg.
In contrast to Inter's rollercoaster form, Marseille have been models of consistency of late and have not lost in any competition for 15 games.
The Champions League is one arena where the 1993 winners have not outshone Inter, Didier Deschamps's side scraping through with a last-gasp 3-2 victory at Borussia Dortmund while the Italians advanced as group winners.
Inter lost twice though, notably in their San Siro opener against Turkish debutants Trabzonspor.
Bayern Munich's Champions League visit to Basel on Wednesday has all the ingredients for an upset, with the Bavarians in the middle of a rocky patch.
Bastian Schweinsteiger's injury, Arjen Robben's loss of form and a dull goalless draw at Bundesliga strugglers Freiburg on Saturday combine to make Bayern look vulnerable.
Basel have already pulled off one shock this season by taking four points out of six from Manchester United in the group stages to qualify for the last 16 at the expense of the Premier League side.
Four-times European champions Bayern were almost untouchable earlier in the season but have struggled for form since the New Year.
Dutch winger Robben has been left out by coach Jupp Heynckes and described as "selfish" by honorary president Franz Beckenbauer who said, "When he scores a goal he does not run towards the player who set him up. He lets the team run after him."
Schweinsteiger has been ruled out for several weeks with an ankle injury. That is a severe blow to Bayern especially as he scored both goals in the 2-1 win at Basel in last season's group stages.
First Published: Feb 22, 2012 00:52 IST