Goal shy Inter under pressure

A quarter of the way through the Serie A season and there is a real sense in Italy that this will not be the Inter Milan procession of recent years.

Having lifted five Scudetto crowns in a row, Inter have near monopolised the Serie A summit in recent years, but this season has so far given hope to the rest. Inter sit third in the table after ten games, a win behind leaders Lazio and a point off second-placed AC Milan, their city rivals.

It's not just the teams ahead that cause worry, though, as they are only a point ahead of Juventus and Napoli while Roma, who started the season in such disastrous fashion, have closed to just four points behind the champions. It is all a lot tighter than Inter had been accustomed to in Jose Mourinho's two years at the helm.

But under new boss Rafael Benitez things have changed and goals, most notably, have become much harder to come by. Despite the astonishing form of Cameroon forward Samuel Eto'o, who has smashed in 17 goals in 16 games in all competitions - one more than the whole of last season - Inter have struggled in front of the net.

Their tally of 12 in ten league games is remarkable in that it is less than half the number - 26 - they had managed at the same stage last season. In fact but for their 4-0 win over Bari earlier in the campaign, things would be even worse.

Eto'o has scored eight of those 12, meaning the rest of the team has yet to contribute significantly. It is a similar story in Europe where he has bagged seven of their 11. Last year's top scorer Diego Milito has only two goals while other attacking players Goran Pandev, Coutinho, Jonathan Biabiany and even Wesley Sneijder have yet to find the net in the league.

Nerazzurri injury woes
Their other great problem ahead of Wednesday's long trip south-east to Lecce is injuries, something affecting their backline more than their forwards. Goalkeeper Julio Cesar is missing while Walter Samuel has just been ruled out perhaps for the rest of the season with a cruciate knee ligament problem that requires an operation. Right-back Maicon also limped out of Saturday's 1-1 home draw with Brescia meaning Inter could be without three of their first-choice back five.

Their biggest problem until the weekend was midfield where Dejan Stankovic, Thiago Motta, Muntari Sulley, McDonald Mariga and Esteban Cambiasso were all missing against Brescia. "It's something that has gradually seen Inter's rivals gain confidence," said AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri. "Inter have many injuries, they won everything last season but the season after a World Cup is always complicated. However, they will still be fighting for the title right to the end."

Despite their many problems, Benitez has faith things will come good later in the season. "It's not right to talk about a crisis now, the team is playing well and always gives its all," he said. "The luck we're not having now we will have later on."

Milan host Palermo on Wednesday in a tricky game while Juve travel to Brescia. Juve too have had their injury problems and coach Luigi Del Neri had to pick youth team centre-back Frederik Sorensen against Cesena while also recalling out of favour veterans Fabio Grosso and Hassan Salihamidzic. But their 3-1 win over Cesena has convinced Del Neri that they're capable of big things. "This proves that we're not reliant on anyone and we need to keep trying to get results," he said.

Leaders Lazio travel to Cesena while upwardly mobile Roma entertain Fiorentina.