Benitez under pressure to rouse faltering Inter
Rafael Benitez has two matches to save his Inter Milan career, if Italian press reports are to be believed.
Inter travel to Chievo on Sunday languishing in fifth place in Serie A and six points off leaders and bitter city rivals AC Milan. The champions have also been ravaged by injuries this season and lost three more players during the Milan derby last weekend, leaving them looking short throughout the team.
Diego Milito and Joel Obi both limped out of the 1-0 defeat, while Marco Materazzi was stretchered off with concussion. With Walter Samuel out for the season, the likes of Thiago Motta, Sulley Muntari and McDonald Mariga also out and Julio Cesar, Esteban Cambiasso and Goran Pandev only just coming back to fitness, Benitez's options are limited.
Italian press reports have claimed that the Spaniard has that match and Wednesday's home UEFA Champions League clash against Netherlands' FC Twente to save his job as coach. A return of 13 goals from 12 matches is not title-winning form and Inter could be nine points off the top by the time they kick off, if Milan beat Fiorentina at the San Siro on Saturday night.
Milan are buoyant after new signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic sunk his former team-mates last Sunday, leaving them a point above Lazio at the summit. Their only concern at the moment seems to be over Ronaldinho's contract, which expires at the end of the season.
He has not been offered a new deal as vice-president Adriano Galliani said on Wednesday it wouldn't be discussed until the spring. It has sparked rumours that Milan are happy to let him go, but Ronaldinho says he has no intention of leaving. "I'm calm, I want to do well so I can stay at Milan for a long time, I want to stay next season," he said.
The Brazilian former world player of the year is no longer an automatic first choice and has spent the last three games on the bench, but injuries to Alexandre Pato and Filippo Inzaghi may open up a space for him. "I always concentrate on training well to play and then it's up to the coach," said Ronaldinho.
Milan's opponents Fiorentina have struggled this season and although Romanian forward Adrian Mutu recently returned from a doping ban, he promptly got injured.
Of the other title challengers, second-placed Lazio travel to Parma as they look to prove they have what it takes to maintain their impressive start. Third-placed Napoli entertain lowly Bologna looking to improve greatly on the insipid display they produced at Lazio last week.
Juventus, fourth, have a tough trip to Genoa and could be without striker Amauri, who picked up a knock in training. Sixth-placed Roma host Udinese on Saturday night but they must be wary of opponents who have five wins from their last seven games and who put four goals past Lecce last weekend.
Rock-bottom Bari travel to Catania looking for their first win in two months following six defeats and a draw in their last seven games.