MOSCOW – "We have a difficult game ahead of us tomorrow because Russian sides are always tough to beat. We'll try not to make any mistakes and hopefully we can force CSKA to make some." That was Claudio Ranieri speaking in the press room at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow as he prepares to make his European debut as the Inter coach in the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League.
Ranieri said he wasn't worried by any opponent in particular: "I don't really like naming players in the opposing team because I don't think it's a good idea to pick players out. We can say that they are strong as a unit. CSKA are in the mix to win their league, they're in good form and they have belief in themselves. So I have utmost respect for all the CSKA players."
Inter have won all four previous games against CSKA Moscow but, though he wasn't in charge of Inter, Ranieri says he doesn't normally consider previous meetings between sides anyway because "you always have to look at the period in which they were played and the psychological and physical factors involved. Inter have changed, CSKA have changed. Every game has to be prepared for differently and I've prepared for tomorrow's game."
What has Claudio Ranieri done to change Inter? "I've tried to set the team out in the way they were used to playing; that's the only thing I can do in this initial period. We only had two training sessions before Bologna so you can't revolutionise anything tactically. Besides, I'm the sort of coach that prefers to let the facts do the talking. We also have injuries at the moment so what I'm trying to do is put the top players back into their usual positions while getting to know the youngsters. Can we win in Europe too? Of course we can. Inter have a very strong team and they're always capable of winning. We made a false start [referring to the home defeat to Trabzonspor – ed.] but, as my captain here just said, we can get ourselves back on track. There's a long way to go yet."
He's only just taken over at Inter and he already has to face up to a Champions League fixture: "I know that we have a game every three days at the moment so I'm not going to start thinking about whether it would have been better to play this game or that game at a different time. Of course, I would have preferred to have someone like Maicon, Sneijder or Stankovic available but the match is now, that's the obstacle we have to face and that's the way I like it. I like the challenge, I like battling it out with my opponent and, if he is better than me, I congratulate him at the end."
What about Ricardo Alvarez? Is he a midfielder or a trequartista? "At the moment his role depends on what I need, so I might see him in the hole, out wide or in midfield. When we're short I have to ask everyone to make sacrifices. Alvarez is a quality player and he's done well in the past. Perhaps he was affected by having prepared differently over the summer but I'm sure that he will be very useful to the team over the course of the season."
Is 4-4-2 a safer system that means running fewer risks? "When I'm up against another team, I always look at two things: the strengths of my side and the strengths of the opposition, and where I see weaknesses I try to exploit them. Tomorrow, I'll be without Forlan so I'll have to re-evaluate things." What about Joel Obi? "He took a little knock but it's got nothing to do with his old problem."
Finally, Giampaolo Pazzini and Diego Milito - can they play alongside each other? "They are both excellent players and tomorrow they might start together. Not that I'm giving you the line-up, but it's one of the doubts I haven't answered yet. As a rule, I usually ask myself these things in the evening, after the final training session."
Follow the Nerazzurri's preparation for their UEFA Champions League match against CSKA here on inter.it.