Rome: Wesley Sneijder deserves much of the credit for Inter Milan`s surge towards a possible Champions League-Serie A double.
The Dutch playmaker showed his class in Tuesday`s 1-0 Champions League win at Chelsea which gave his side a 3-1 aggregate triumph and will be out for a repeat performance when Inter visit fourth-placed Palermo on Saturday (1945).
His display in London won Sneijder plaudits across the continent and he has been consistently impressive in Serie A this season having adapted to Italian football`s demands after being offloaded by Real Madrid in the close season.
With Real`s expensive new signings struggling to gel, that decision may turn out to have been a mistake, but their loss is Inter`s gain.
"Sneijder is a real specialist in the position behind the strikers," Inter coach Jose Mourinho told reporters recently.
"In terms of creativity, dynamism, movement, his ability to shoot and set up chances and his way of pressing when the team loses the ball, he is perfect for that position."
Mourinho will be wanting more of the same from Sneijder in Sicily as his side seek to exploit the morale-boost of this week`s European win to end a domestic wobble that has seen their lead over AC Milan cut to just a point.
Inter have won just one of their last six league games including last week`s 3-1 defeat at Catania.
They will be without suspended midfielder Sulley Muntari for the tricky visit to a Palermo side with serious ambitions of beating Juventus to Italy`s fourth and final Champions League qualification slot.
Second-placed Milan have big problems in defence for Sunday`s home game against Napoli (1400) when victory will put them top if Inter drop points.
Centre backs Alessandro Nesta, Daniele Bonera and Oguchi Onyewu are injured while full back Ignazio Abate is doubtful.
Milan`s England midfielder David Beckham looks set to miss the rest of the season after tearing his Achilles tendon in last week`s 1-0 win against Chievo Verona.
Third-placed AS Roma are without four suspended players, midfielders Rodrigo Taddei, Daniele De Rossi and David Pizarro and defender Philippe Mexes, for Saturday`s home game against Udinese (1945).
Fifth-placed Juventus visit Sampdoria, who are also in the running for Champions League qualification in sixth place, in Sunday`s late game (1945).