Tue, Mar 03, 2009 - Page 18 News List

Inter and Juventus switch attention to Coppa Italia clashes

AFP , ROME

Italy’s top two sides will switch off from their Serie A and Champions League challenges midweek to try to take a step closer to a Coppa Italia final appearance.

Champions and league leaders Inter, runners-up in this competition the last two seasons, host Sampdoria tomorrow in what will be a very tricky tie.

Just a week later they face a trip to Manchester United for the second leg of their Champions League second round clash.

That is a match they are desperate to win and this cup encounter, the first of two legs that are bizarrely spread out by seven weeks, will be seen more as a distraction than an opportunity.

Coach Jose Mourinho is almost certain to ring the changes with more than just reserve goalkeeper Francesco Toldo getting a rare start.

For Sampdoria this competition represents their only realistic hope of qualifying for European football next season and as they are comfortably clear of the relegation zone, they are sure to give this their full attention — something teams rarely do in the much-maligned Italian Cup.

Today, second-placed Juventus travel to Lazio in an intriguing tie that will probably see both sides tempted into fielding their strongest line-up.

Lazio have slipped out of the European qualification places in the league so like Sampdoria will probably see this as their best chance to be involved in continental competitions next season.

Juventus are still in the Champions League but seven points behind Inter in Serie A and winning either competition, given their 1-0 defeat to Chelsea last week, could prove beyond them this season.

The chance to finish this campaign with a meaningful trophy will no doubt do wonders to their growing self-belief only two seasons after competing in Serie B, so coach Claudio Ranieri is likely to treat this match very seriously.

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