PARIS, October 19 – Having drawn 2-2 at FC Twente and thrashed Werder Bremen 4-0, holders Inter Milan face their most taxing challenge to date in this season's Champions League when Tottenham visit San Siro on Wednesday.The London side also opened their account with a 2-2 draw — at Bremen — but their 4-1 demolition of Twente in their last outing suggests they will be Inter’s biggest rivals for top spot in Group A.
"I expect a difficult match against a team that is mentally strong, who push high up the pitch and are good on the counter-attack," said Inter coach Rafael Benitez, a Champions League winner with Liverpool in 2005.
"We’re going to have to play very well if we want to win."
A goal from Samuel Eto’o — his 12th in 11 games this term — brought the Italian champions a 1-0 win at Cagliari on Sunday, keeping them two points behind early Serie A pace-setters Lazio.
The in-form Cameroon hitman is expected to lead the line in the continued absence of last season’s top scorer Diego Milito, but Benitez has doubts over holding midfielder Esteban Cambiasso and Macedonian forward Goran Pandev.
Tottenham have never competed in the Champions League in its current guise and their only previous appearance in Europe’s top club competition dates back to 1961-62, when they reached the semi-finals.
A 2-1 defeat of Fulham at the weekend allowed Spurs to hold onto fifth place in this season’s English top flight, but coach Harry Redknapp says they will adopt a cautious approach in Milan.
"We’d like to win but we’re not going to go out and start swarming all over them," said Redknapp. "They are a top team, so you have to be aware of that. There is real danger. Eto’o is playing fantastically well."
Eto’o’s form means he will undoubtedly be the man to watch for Inter, but all eyes will be on Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney for very different reasons when his side host Turkish champions Bursaspor in Group C.
United are joint-top of their pool, after an impressive 1-0 win at Valencia in their last game, but speculation over Rooney’s future at the club has dogged them since the weekend.
The out-of-form England star played for just 18 minutes in United’s 2-2 draw at home to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, in which they let slip a 2-0 lead, amid rumours he has fallen out with Sir Alex Ferguson.
The United boss is reportedly unhappy with Rooney over stories in the tabloid media about his private life and if he starts Wednesday’s game on the bench, newspaper speculation is bound to intensify.
Of equal concern to Ferguson will be his side’s newly acquired habit of throwing leads away, and left-back Patrice Evra has called on his team-mates to address the problem.
"We need to start killing games off," he told club television station MUTV.
"We need to take our chances and score more goals when we can. It’s not like we don’t have a lot of opportunities."
Rangers, Group C co-leaders, welcome Valencia to Ibrox in Wednesday’s other group game.
Barcelona tackle FC Copenhagen at Camp Nou in Group D, with the Danish underdogs travelling to Catalonia in the unexpected position of group leaders.
Barca, champions in 2009, are two points back in second place, having drawn 1-1 at Rubin Kazan in their last game, and have scored just four goals in four home games in La Liga this season.
"We have missed chances but the important thing is to create them," said Barca captain Carles Puyol.
"We have top quality players and the goals will come. We’re not worried."
Barca schemer-in-chief Xavi could be rested for the visit of Stale Solbakken’s team, after he revealed he was still struggling with tendinitis following the 2-1 defeat of Valencia in the Spanish top flight on Saturday.
In Group B, leaders Lyon will look to prolong their 100 percent record when they welcome Portuguese champions Benfica to Stade Gerland.