Tuesday 16 January 2018

Nine-man Inter preserve record

Euro Zone

Pete Jenson

IT will be eight years and a day since Jose Mourinho last lost a League home game when Chelsea face Internazionale on Wednesday night.

The unbeaten record does not extend to European competition but underlines the size of the task awaiting Carlo Ancelotti's men at San Siro.

Mourinho's extraordinary home league record was under threat against Sampdoria when Inter went down to nine men on 38 minutes, but the Serie A leaders held on for a point. Walter Samuel was sent off on 31 minutes and Ivan Cordoba was given his marching orders seven minutes later. The former Chelsea coach refused to speak with Italian media after the game and ordered his players to follow his silent protest. He was incensed by both red cards and a Samuel Eto'o penalty claim that was turned down, with the Cameroon striker booked for diving.

Eto'o also missed Inter's best chance to win the game and will have to wait to see whether his display earned him a starting berth against Chelsea or Mourinho reunites Goran Pandev with Diego Milito.

Sampdoria's numerical advantaged was reduced in the second half when they had Giampaolo Pazzini sent off but it was an unwelcomed workout for nine-man Inter ahead of their huge clash on Wednesday night.

Depleted Barca still class apart

BARCELONA ended their 4-0 thrashing of Racing Santander with nine home-grown players on the pitch, making a nonsense of their injury crisis.

Pep Guardiola was without three first-choice midfielders but simply called on yet another product of the club's youth team.

Debutant Thiago, son of Brazilian World Cup winner Mazinho, came on as a second-half substitute and scored the fourth after Andres Iniesta and Thierry Henry had both ended scoring droughts. Iniesta broke the deadlock. Henry added a second with a free-kick.

The Barcelona coach had words for what he felt was youngster Thiago's over-the top goal celebration: “He is a little bit cocky and we need to put the brakes on him. He will have plenty of time to learn playing in the youth team.”

A Cristiano Ronaldo inspired Real Madrid answered their critics following their midweek Champions League defeat at Lyon with a 6-2 dismissal of Villareal. Ronaldo scored a brilliant free-kick opener and created goals for Higuain, Kaka and Xabi Alonso as Madrid closed the gap at the top behind Barca to two points.

Gross expectations

FORMER Tottenham boss Christian Gross is convinced his Stuttgart side can get the better of Barcelona in the Champions League tomorrow.

Stuttgart hammered Cologne 5-1 away from home on Saturday, making it 18 from a possible 21 points.

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