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Rafa Benitez - Inter (Getty Images)
Inter are finally on top, after almost a half century without glory in the Champions League. Now the hardest part of the job comes for Nerazzurri as it won't be easy to defend last year’s title. Also because Jose Mourinho, the man behind the triumph, chose to leave Inter to find new successes in Madrid. Rafa Benitez has a lot of experience and good Champions League pedigree, and he can be the right replacement for Inter.

STRENGTH & WEAKNESSES

Inter are basically the same team of last season as president Massimo Moratti chose to keep all the players except Mario Balotelli. So everyone already knows the Nerazzurri’s strength and weaknesses. Inter are still a very solid team. Julio Cesar is one of the best ‘keepers in the world. Thedefence is very safe with Lucio and Walter Samuel and Maicon is a unique player in his role. In the midfield, Benitez has a lot of options: Esteban Cambiasso, Javier Zanetti, Thiago Motta, Dejan Stankovic have the right mix of quality, dynamism and strength. Wesley Sneijder is in the best moment of his career and he's one of the most decisive in the world. He has created a lethal offensive connection with Diego Milito and Samuel Eto’o.

It will be very difficult to defend their title for a variety of reasons. The first: obviously Inter cannot have the same hunger for glory of the last year. After victories in Serie A, Coppa Italia and the Champions League, their enthusiasm will not be the same. Then we have to consider the average age of the team, as the players are getting older. Some new good replacements could have been useful to the coach, but the top brass has chosen to be static on the market.

STARS & KEY PLAYER


There's one fundamental man above all in Inter: Wesley Sneijder. Last season, the former Ajax and Real Madrid player showed his talents to the whole world. It is no coincidence that he won the latest edition of the Goal.com Top 50. When he plays well, Inter are almost assured of victory. Diego Milito was also integral to the Beneamata’s success last season. El Principe is an infallible sniper and his goals fired Inter to the treble last season. Also Esteban Cambiasso is very important to manage the balance of the team, as he his the first man to defend and the first man to start the attack. He is a total player, like Maicon: a forward as wing back.

COACH & TACTICAL


It's never easy to replace a winning coach but Benitez has the unenviable task of succeeding Jose Mourinho. The Special One was fundamental in changing the mentality of Inter. No more fear, but a great self-confidence. Benitez doesn't seem to have the same charisma of the Portuguese, so he will work in other directions to keep Inter competitiveness to high levels. Until now, nobody saw many changes at Inter. Rafa still uses the same system of play that led the Champions League to Mourinho last year: an offensive 4-2-3-1 with a lot of defensive work done by the forwards. The problem is that now Inter’s rivals already know this kind of play, and Benitez doesn’t have a lot of alternative solutions.

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SUCCESSES

Inter are one of the most successful clubs in Calcio. They started again to win in 2006, after the Calciopoli scandal that revolutionised the balance of Italian football. Recently, Inter have won five Scudetti, two Coppa Italia’s, four Italian Supercup’s and the past Champions League in the final against Bayern Munich. This last triumph was a historical one as Inter returned on the top of Europe after 45 years without glory.

STADIUM


The Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, also referred as San Siro because of its location, sits in the San Siro district in Milan It is the home of both Milan teams, Inter and A.C. Milan. The stadium is named  in honour of Giuseppe Meazza, the past Inter and A.C. Milan legend. The stadium was restored for the 1990 World Cup with a $60 million expense and has since become a 5-star stadium for UEFA standards. As part of the renovations, the stadium became an all seater, with an extra tier being added to three sides of the stadium. Usually it isn't sold out for Inter matches in the group stage, except great clashes like the one with Barcelona last year. After the second round, San Siro became a hell for Inter’s opponents.

HERO OF THE FANS

Javier Zanetti is a living legend and he's in the heart of each Inter supporter. But Nerazzurri fans love too sing for Wesley Sneijder and Diego Milito. There's a very good relationship between them and the San Siro crowd, both have a lot of banners in the stands and with their goals and their performances, they conquered an eternal place in Inter history.

GOAL.COM PREDICTION


The Group A is surely a tough one. Werder Bremen was always a bad opponents for Italian teams, Tottenham are a good side and Twente could be one of the surprises of the tournament. But Inter are the champions and they cannot fail: If they still have the charisma that Mourinho gave them, Nerazzurri will go ahead in the tournament without hesitations.


Matches
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Most Discussed
Top Scorers
Player Goals Penalties
Rodrigo Palacio Rodrigo Palacio
Striker
Inter
17 1
Mauro Icardi Mauro Icardi
Striker
Inter
8 0
Ricardo Álvarez Ricardo Álvarez
Midfielder
Inter
5 0
Yuto Nagatomo Yuto Nagatomo
Defender
Inter
5 0
Esteban Cambiasso Esteban Cambiasso
Midfielder
Inter
4 0