ROME, November 12 – Inter Milan coach Rafael Benitez has a huge problem ahead of Sunday's city derby against AC Milan, but he believes Argentina forward Diego Milito can be the solution.
Champions Inter dropped to fourth in midweek after a disappointing 1-1 draw at lowly Lecce but they could still conceivably go top if they triumph in the San Siro as there is little to separate the top six — just five points.
But ahead of this mouth-watering top-of-the-table clash, Inter come into it with a worrying problem — their troubles in front of goal.
Inter have mustered just 13 goals in their 11 league games and despite Cameroon forward Samuel Eto’o’s stunning early season form — he has 17 strikes in 17 matches in all competitions — the champions are struggling to find the net.
Their defence has been rock solid with only six goals conceded but their failure to convert chances is costing them points — they have drawn five times already.
But Benitez believes the return to form and fitness of Milito — he scored his third goal of the season against Lecce — is what the club needs to rediscover last season’s title form.
"We’ll try to do better in the derby (than against Lecce), we’ll give it our all and we can win, it depends on us," said the Spaniard.
"And if we win, the table will be different, it will be a great game.
"Everyone will have great motivation and will give everything to win, you’ll see an Inter with the right mentality and intensity.
"(The Lecce match) showed what a difference players like (Dejan) Stankovic or Milito can make when they play, we’re definitely better with them.
"When we have a fully fit squad, we’ll be better although that doesn’t mean that our young players haven’t been doing well, they’re definitely improving.
"But for sure we hope that this will be the start of a long series of Milito goals."
Benitez’s Milan counterpart Massimiliano Allegri has a different problem to the Spaniard, despite his side sitting pretty at the top.
They keep leaking goals.
"In the last few games we’ve often conceded a goal a game but we hope that on Sunday we can manage to keep a clean sheet," he said.
Although Milan are top and come into the game in better form, veteran Dutch midfielder Clarence Seedorf has warned his team-mates not to get over-confident against last season’s treble winners.
"Our recent victories have helped our morale, it helps to have a positive spirit," he said.
"But we have to be aware of the fact that we’re playing against the Italian and European champions.
"We need to keep our feet on the ground because the derby is a special game and we can’t underestimate Inter, regardless of their many injuries because they’re rich in great players.
"We have good team spirit, we want to help eachother and that’s important and one of the reasons we’re top.
"To win the title you need consistency, there are six teams separated by no more than five points.
"There’s no shortage of attention and spectacle in the league and we’re going to try to go all the way to the end."
Milan will need to do far better than last season, though, where they lost 4-0 in the away game and were then beaten 2-0 at home, despite Inter finishing the game with nine players.
In an exciting weekend of matches, the top six all play each other as second-placed Lazio host third placed Napoli and fifth-placed Juventus entertain sixth-placed Roma.
Fiorentina v Cesena, Juventus v Roma
Lazio v Napoli, Bari v Parma, Bologna v Brescia, Cagliari v Genoa, Palermo v Catania, Sampdoria v Chievo, Udinese v Lecce, Inter Milan v AC Milan