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Inter are relishing Spurs rematch, but it’s a very different cast at the Lane

PUBLISHED: 11:57 07 March 2013 | UPDATED: 19:05 07 March 2013

Inter Milan's Rodrigo Palacio

Inter Milan's Rodrigo Palacio

PA Archive/Press Association Images

Tonight’s showdown with Inter Milan under the lights at White Hart Lane will bring back some wonderful memories of the fairytale victory over the European champions in November 2010.

The Nerazzurri had won the Champions League earlier that year, but they were defeated 3-1 in N17 by a plucky Spurs side who were making their debut in the competition – and making the most of the adventure.

Tottenham went on to finish above the Italians in the group, and Inter captain Javier Zanetti, 39, has clearly not forgotten it.

Having overcome Cluj in the last 32 to set up the tie with Spurs, he stated: “After the last two matches with them, I want a rematch.”

Inter boss Andrea Stramaccioni added: “They [Tottenham] are a top side, at Champions League level, but we’re Inter and we’ll show what we’re about.”

The feeling will be mutual, and the prospect of facing Inter again made the last-gasp victory over Lyon all the more enjoyable. However, the cast of this ‘rematch’ will be very different from the last meeting at the Lane.

Both clubs are under new management – indeed Stramaccioni is the fourth Inter boss since Rafael Benitez, who was in charge against Harry Redknapp’s Lilywhites – and there have been sizeable changes to the playing squads.

Internazionale fielded Maicon, Lucio, Sulley Muntari, Wesley Sneijder, Goran Pandev, Philippe Coutinho and Samuel Eto’o at the Lane in 2010 but they have all since departed.

The same applies to Spurs – nine of the 14 players who were involved in the home game against the Italians have left the club, including the three goalscorers Rafael van der Vaart, Peter Crouch and Roman Pavlyuchenko.

Of course, Inter still have a host of stars in their ranks and they still have a strong Argentine contingent including Walter Samuel, Zanetti, Esteban Cambiasso and Diego Milito, who scored both of the goals in the 2010 Champions League final when Jose Mourinho’s side beat Bayern Munich 2-0.

However, Milito has been ruled out for the rest of the season through injury, while Samuel has been out of action since January 6 with an Achilles problem.

There are also doubts over defenders Andrea Ranocchia Matmas Silvestre and Yugo Nagatomo and midfielder Fredy Guarin so Stramaccione has been forced to call six youth players up to his squad.

“This is a very important game for us, but unfortunately we have lots of injuries,” said Stamaccione. “We gave a few of them tests, but most of them are still struggling and we don’t want to risk anyone.

“The Europa League is important, but we don’t want anyone to get longer-term injuries. Our main target is third place in our league. That’s why we brought six young players here. It’s going to be difficult.”

Inter’s form was already unconvincing. They have won just five of their last 16 games in Serie A, and they were nearly undone away at Catania on Sunday after going 2-0 down inside 20 minutes.

However, the visitors battled back to triumph 3-2 thanks to another Argentine, Rodrigo Palacio, who came off the bench at half-time and set up the first goal before scoring the other two.

The 31-year-old, who tends to operate as a second striker or out wide, arrived from Genoa in the summer and has scored 14 goals in 27 appearances for his new club.

Inter also recruited the Italy international Antonio Cassano from their city rivals AC Milan last year. The 30-year-old forward started his country’s European Championship final against Spain in July, but he has netted just seven times in 29 appearances this campaign.

At the other end of the field, Internazionale signed a former team-mate of Sandro’s, the Brazilian centre-back Juan Jesus, from Internacional in 2012 – but the 21-year-old had a poor game against Catania at the weekend.

Indeed, the defence has been leaky in general, with 13 goals conceded in the last six league games.

The verdict: Spurs’ confidence will be sky high, while Inter have been inconsistent. We’ll say 2-1 to Tottenham, just like the home leg against Lyon.

Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs

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