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Monday, October 30, 2006

Vieira to miss Inter vs. Spartak

Inter of Milan will travel to the Russian capital for Tuesday's Champions League Group B showdown with Spartak Moscow without Patrick Vieira.

In fact, the talented midfielder sustained an ankle injury during Saturday's 4-3 derby win over AC Milan.

We must mention that Vieira, who will be sidelined for two weeks, had strong words with Inter's assistant coach Sinisa Mihajlovic after the clash.

The French footballer's request to be substituted midway through the second half, 30 minutes after damaging his ankle during a contest with Milan's Gattuso, was turned down by Inter.

Manager Roberto Mancini opted instead to replace forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was also struggling with a minor knock.

"I am sorry that I couldn't replace Vieira," Mancini expressed. "I really thought he could finish the match. I needed him considering that Ibrahimovic couldn't make it.

"In the end, Vieira got upset with Sinisa. However, I want to thank him for what he did for the squad."

And while Vieira stays behind in Milan for treatment on the injury, Ibrahimovic will be available for Tuesday's encounter although Argentine Julio Cruz is likely to partner Hernan Crespo upfront.

"I have seen a lot of positives out of our win against Milan," said Mancini. "I am happy because the team has shown a lot of character.

"Now we are focused on our tricky game against Spartak."

The Nerazzurri welcome back Fabio Grosso, who missed their 2-1 home triumph against Spartak earlier this month through suspension, as they look for their first triumph on the road this current season.

It's important to notice that they trail six points behind group leaders Bayern Munich and are a single point behind Sporting Lisbon.

The Italians must brace themselves for a battle at the Luzhniki Stadium as Spartak, who lost at Inter two weeks ago, cannot afford a loss having only taken one point in three European games.

Should the Russian giants fail to take a positive result, and Sporting beat Bayern in the other group game, Spartak's hopes of progressing would vanish.

But a win on Tuesday would see them leapfrog their illustrious opponents and put them right back in contention.

Russian captain Yegor Titov has been unimpressed with the Italian champions this season and believes they have a genuine chance.

He told the Russian newspaper: "The current Inter team is not what it used to be in the past few years.

"I think there is no better time to play them and if we can't beat them this time we probably never will."

In fact, they will have to perform better than they did at the weekend though - on Saturday the Russian champions were held to a 1-1 draw by the Premier League's bottom team Shinnik Yaroslavl.

Chelsea want to beat Barcelona to assure the first place

The Champions League is setting up for one of the most important derbies in the last years: Barcelona against Chelsea. New goalkeeper Henrique Hilario will keep his place in goal for Chelsea's clash with the Spanish team at the Nou Camp.

We must mention that Hilario has conceded only one goal in four games since replacing injured keeper Petr Cech and saved a penalty against Sheffield United on Saturday. It's also good to know that Carlo Cudicini is fit after a spell out with concussion but boss Jose Mourinho has promised to keep faith in Hilario in the Nou Camp.

Chelsea's coach Mourinho will make a late decision on strikers Didier Drogba and Andriy Shevchenko who both trained with the team today. Drogba came off at Bramall Lane with a foot injury, and Shevchenko missed the match with a thigh strain.