Inter Milan look to end their wobble with home win against Pescara
Dispute with Sneijder over his refusal to take pay cut blamed for team's fall to fifth place
Inter Milan will look to get their title hopes back on track against Pescara today, although the Serie A giants approach their first home match of the year facing major problems.
Before the winter break, Inter's youthful but defiant coach Andrea Stramaccioni, 36, strode the touchline confidently as his South American-flavoured side kept close tabs on champions and leaders Juventus.
Since then, however, they have dropped to fifth place, nine points behind Juventus having taken just a single point from their last three games.
With the experienced Argentine player Walter Samuel an injury doubt (Achilles tendon) and the Wesley Sneijder transfer saga still unsettled, Inter can ill afford another slip-up like the 3-0 defeat away against Udinese last weekend.
Although Inter beat league new boys Pescara 3-0 in their first game of the campaign last August, recent media reports have speculated that Inter's poor form is down to their treatment of Sneijder.
The Dutchman, one of the club's top performers in recent years, is effectively being squeezed out of the club for refusing to drastically cut his annual salary of €6 million (HK$61 million).
Galatasaray stepped in on Wednesday with an offer which Sneijder is reported to be considering. Inter president Massimo Moratti, meanwhile, says the ball is firmly in Sneijder's court.
"We had a meeting with Galatasaray the other day which went well, now it's up to the player," Moratti said. "It simply comes down to whether he wants to stay or not."
The loss of Sneijder would be another setback for a league which once attracted the top names in football, but which is now largely dictated by the financial crisis being felt across many sectors.
Victory at the San Siro would allow Inter to pull three points clear of fourth-placed Fiorentina, whose signing of Villarreal striker Giuseppe Rossi last week was tempered by a shock 2-1 defeat by Pescara.
Fiorentina beat Udinese 2-1 in their league opener in August with Montenegrin Stevan Jovetic scoring a brace but have more than one reason to be wary on their trip to the Friuli stadium tomorrow.
Reports this week claimed Udinese turned down a €3.5 million bid from Fiorentina for the club's talismanic striker, Antonio Di Natale, who scored twice in the 3-0 defeat of Inter last week.
Despite the welcome result, Udinese coach Francesco Guidolin has called for composure. "It was proof that we have been doing things the right way, but we have to continue putting points on the board," he said. "The Inter match is done, now we have to focus on Fiorentina."
Lazio and Napoli, meanwhile, will enjoy home advantage as they host Atalanta and Palermo respectively, looking to reinforce second and third place.
Only five points off the pace of Juve, Lazio are two ahead of Napoli before they host Atalanta tomorrow with Miroslav Klose, the club's top scorer, looking to add to his tally of 10 league goals.
All bets, meanwhile, will be on Napoli to demolish struggling Palermo especially in the wake of their 4-1 rout of Roma, complete with a hat-trick from Edinson Cavani.