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Mancini set for possible Italian Cup final swansong (SN)

SoccerNews in Serie A 24 May 2008


Roberto Mancini will take charge of Inter Milan in Saturday's Italian Cup final against AS Roma at Rome's Stadio Olimpico, possibly for the last time.

Rumours have been circulating for some time that Mancini will quit Inter at the end of the season – supposedly to be replaced by former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho.

And the coach's failure to speak to the press following last weekend's title success only served to intensify the speculation.

Mancini, it seems, simply wanted to avoid any questions surrounding his future until he clarifies it – which could happen after the cup final.

Inter have been claiming that he will certainly stay but there would be no other sensible statement to make with a cup final to prepare for.

And Inter president Massimo Moratti certainly didn't douse those flames when he tried to avoid the question of his coach's future.

“Mancini and I saw each other at training but only to celebrate,” said Moratti.

“We drank a toast and celebrated the title and I believe that this title has an important place in our history.

“In this victory there was everything that Inter represents: drama, intensity and the isolation that in the end made us feel like heroes.”

Moratti was more keen to talk about potential acquisitions – complimenting Frank Lampard on his Champions League final performance – rather than the future of his coach, who claimed after Inter's Champions League second round exit to Liverpool that he would leave at the season's end.

He retracted that statement a day later but that seemed to be more a case of not upsetting the applecart rather than his genuine desire to stay.

If this is to be Mancini's last game in charge, it will be an intriguing way to bow out.

Only a week after the end of their thriling title chase, in which Inter claimed a third straight Serie A crown, the two best teams in Italy will once again lock horns for the right to hoist a piece of silverware.

It will be the fourth time in a row that the two meet in the final.

The champions will obviously start as favourites for several reasons. They won the title, got the better of Roma in head-to-heads this season and of the last three cup finals, they won two of them.

There is something a little different about this one, though, as for the first time since 1980 it is being played in a one-off match. For anyone who believes in omens: Roma won that time in the Stadio Olimpico.

They can count on home advantage again this season but during their league campaign they suffered a 4-1 defeat to Inter on this ground.

However, in last season's two-legged cup final, it was their performance in Rome that won them the cup. A 6-2 victory rendered the second leg in Milan almost meaningless and Inter's 2-1 win fell a long way short of what they needed.

Missing players could play a vital role as Roma will still be without captain Francesco Totti, who is injured.

However, Inter have many injury problems themselves, particularly in defence where first-choice centre-back pairing Walter Samuel and Ivan Cordoba are injured and now Marco Materazzi is suspended as well.

Argentine forward Julio Cruz is also suspended but his loss will be offset by the return to the starting line-up of Zlatana Ibrahimovic, probably Inter's best player this season.



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