Allen Hamilton

What: UEFA Champions League Round of 16
Who: Inter Milan vs Bayern Munich
When: Wednesday 23rd February, 2011, at 19:45 UK time
Where: San Siro, Milan, Italy

Holder to Salvage Something from the Wreckage?

No one was in any doubt that a very different Inter would take to the pitch this season, as the Jose Mourinho era ended and former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez attempted to forge a new one. For Benitez though, tactical changes, dressing room unhappiness, injuries and a general Mourinho inspired malaise gripped the Nerazzurri. And although president Massimo Moratti desperately wanted the Spaniard to succeed, the time came to wield the axe and install ex-Rossonero Leonardo.

In fairness, Leonardo has brought the feel-good factor back to Inter, masterminding a splendid unbeaten run soon after taking charge that was only halted by an Udinese side playing the best football in Serie A. While making up a deficit of five points on city rivals AC Milan will take a big effort from all involved, the return of the Champions League truly does allow Inter to start with a clean slate. World champions or not, Leonardo knows that a respectable showing is needed in a tournament the Nerazzurri won last season as part of their treble.

"We’ll soon be playing Champions League football again and that in itself is a boost", said the Brazilian. "It isn’t a problem. This team has shown it can put together consistent performances so I’m not worried."

Revenge for Bernabeu Pain

While Inter may prefer not to remind Bayern Munich that they triumphed at the expense of the Germans for fear of handing Louis van Gaal’s men extra motivation, the Allianz Arena outfit are well aware of the fact. A footnote in history now is that Bayern were themselves on the cusp of a famous treble of trophies, with the Bundesliga and German Cup also won last season. Meeting Inter again so quickly offers up the perfect chance to extract revenge and send the holders tumbling out.

Bayern’s determination to go one better in this competition should not be underestimated. Quietly going about their business, the German giants are confident they can advance to the last eight, particularly now Jose Mourinho is not plotting their downfall in the dugout opposite. "We’ve always said we have an outstanding team, provided we can play with our best line-up", said sporting director Christian Nerlinger in the wake of Bayern’s 4-0 win over Hoffenheim two weeks ago. And looking ahead to Inter he commented: "I’m convinced this was the spark for a very successful and vital few weeks."

It is true that in the Bundesliga Bayern are left staring up at the runaway train that is Borussia Dortmund, due to too many dropped points. Although the finger can be pointed at the absence of star players like Arjen Robben, the Champions League represents a more realistic chance of silverware than the Bundesliga, even if the challenge is a tough one.


Recent form

Juventus 1-0 Inter (13/02; Serie A)
Fiorentina 1-2 Inter (16/02; Serie A)
Inter 1-0 Cagliari (19/02; Serie A)

Bayern Munich:
1.FC Koln 3-2 Bayern Munich
(05/02; Bundesliga)
Bayern Munich 4-0 Hoffenheim
(12/02; Bundesliga)
Mainz 1-3 Bayern Munich 
(19/02; Bundesliga)

Key absences

Inter: Wesley Sneijder (slight doubt); Lucio (slight doubt); Diego Milito; Walter Samuel

Bayern Munich: Ivica Olic

Players to watch

Inter – Esteban Cambiasso: Dubbed as "incredible" by coach Leonardo, Esteban Cambiasso serves as an example for the whole team. The Inter captain is often the heartbeat of the side and a quick glance at the Argentine can reveal the likely fate of the match. Key to retaining possession and setting the tempo, Cambiasso will need to be at his inspired best against Bayern.

Bayern Munich – Arjen Robben: The Dutch winger caused Bayern to worry for a brief moment last week, when he injured a finger in training. The verdict was that it was simply badly sprained, but the attention it instantly garnered was a clue to just how important the former Real Madrid man is to the team. A truly world-class talent, the 26-year-old is capable of winning games on his own. In the Champions League, that is priceless.

Match Prediction

Inter are back in some sort of groove – perhaps as much as can be expected in the post-Jose Mourinho world – and will surely fancy their chances of grabbing some sort of lead to take to Germany. But Bayern feel revenge is within their grasp as they quietly go about their business. Having improved in the Bundesliga as Inter have improved in Serie A, there has been a strange sort of symmetry between last year’s two finalsts who have watched rivals sprint off at the top of the standings. This is simply too close to call. Inter Milan 1-1 Bayern Munich.

For top betting tips and a wide range of markets and odds on Inter Milan v Bayern Munich visit OLBG.