Pepe and Quagliarella score to give Juventus 3-1 win over Catania as they stake claim to be Milan’s main challengers.
|Cordoba receives instructions from Benitez during a Serie A match against Udinese in September [GALLO/GETTY]|
Following Jose Mourinho’s treble-winning success at Inter Milan was always going to be tough but new boss Rafael Benitez may find salvation in a competition that is not usually considered a major prize by the top clubs.
The Italian champions, Copa Italia holders and European Champions League holders are in Abu Dhabi for the Club World Cup, formerly known as the Intercontinental Cup, in what will be a welcome break from their troubles at home.
The competition, played between the champions of each continent, could be key to Benitez keeping his job.
And Inter’s chances of clinching the title could be higher due to the high value placed on the trophy by their South American players.
“There are so many South Americans in our team that the will (to win) is there,” Colombian defender Ivan Cordoba said in the United Arab Emirates on Saturday.
South American sides traditionally showed more interest than their European rivals in the Intercontinental Cup and that perception remains with the competition in the current format.
Cordoba, speaking at a news conference, compared the tournament with a World Cup for national sides and said: “For me this is a dream. As I entered the stadium I remembered being at (World Cup) France 98.”
Benitez has been under intense pressure since replacing treble-winning coach Mourinho at Inter this season and the Club World Cup is seen as make-or-break time for the Spaniard.
Club president Massimo Moratti suggested after a 3-0 defeat at Werder Bremen in the Champions League on Tuesday that he would review Benitez’s position after the tournament in Abu Dhabi.
Inter have lost seven matches this season, the same number of defeats suffered by Mourinho’s team in the whole of last term, and were 10 points behind leaders AC Milan in Serie A after 15 matches before leaving for the Middle East.
Benitez could field a majority of South Americans in Inter’s opening match, a semi-final on Wednesday against the winners of Saturday night’s quarter-final between Asian champions Seongnam and hosts al-Wahda.
Argentina striker Diego Milito, whose goals secured Inter’s three trophies last season, is hoping to recover from injury to be available for the semi-final.
The final of the Club World Cup, now also contested by the champions of Africa, Asia, the CONCACAF region and Oceania, has continued to be contested every year by the European and South American sides.
Colombia centre back Cordoba, who attended the conference with Benitez, said Inter had overcome problems last season too, and would attempt to overcome them with good football.
“You don’t forget from one day to the next how to play,” he said.
Benitez refused to be drawn into a discussion of his job amid media reports in Europe that Inter were already looking for a replacement with former Roma coach Luciano Spalletti, now with Zenit St Petersburg in Russia, said to be the favourite.
South American champions Internacional of Brazil are favourites to beat Africa’s TP Mazembe of DR Congo on Tuesday and reach a potential final with Inter.