Football: Liverpool favourites but Inter deserve last-16 spot, says Inzaghi

Inzaghi (above) said Inter's recent displays give him faith his team can cause an upset against Liverpool. PHOTO: REUTERS

ROME (REUTERS, AFP) - Inter Milan manager Simone Inzaghi hailed Liverpool as one of top sides in Europe but believes his team had the quality to match them in the first leg of the Champions League last-16 tie at the San Siro on Wednesday (Feb 16).

Inter, European champions in 2010, are playing their first knockout tie in a decade after finishing second in their group behind Real Madrid.

"Liverpool are one of the best teams in Europe, but our players deserve to play these kinds of games," Inzaghi said at a press conference on Tuesday.

"We haven't played in the round of 16 for many years and, although it will be very difficult, we'll try to make it.

"On paper, Liverpool are the favourites, but games must be played. I'll ask the players to go on the pitch and play our football with a free mind, showing our ideas. Determination will make the difference."

Inzaghi singled out Liverpool's counter-attacking threat and praised the playmaking qualities of fullbacks Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson.

"We saw those two matches (with AC Milan, Liverpool's group-stage opponents) and we've watched Liverpool's more recent matches. They have great players all over the pitch, with a deep squad and a great manager," said Inzaghi.

"When you lose the ball, they can come straight at you at any moment. They have Alisson and (Virgil) van Dijk who are capable of making long, precise passes. Their fullbacks have really refined technique as if they were playmakers. They can cause problems for you in every area of the pitch."

However, the Italian also added that Inter's recent displays give him faith his team can cause an upset against Liverpool despite results not going their way.

Inter, second in the Serie A standings, have collected one point from their last two league games, after a painful 2-1 derby defeat by AC Milan which was followed by Saturday's 1-1 draw at Napoli.

"I am not satisfied with the results, I didn't expect them," Inzaghi said.

"But I think we played two great games against two great teams, who, along with Juventus, will be title challengers.

"In the second half (at Napoli), we went out there with a great spirit and huge desire to not lose. That second half gives me faith for the match tomorrow... We respect them but we're not starting the game already beaten."

While the suspended Nicolo Barella will be a big miss for the Italian giants, Inzaghi has an almost full squad to pick from. Edin Dzeko is expected to start up front along with Alexis Sanchez and Lautaro Martinez.

"We've played many games recently. We have two training sessions left, one striker will be introduced as a sub. I'll make a final decision today or tomorrow. I always try to rotate them," Inzaghi said.

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