Serie A Daily – Pressure Mounting on Benitez

When Rafael Benitez agreed to replace Jose Mourinho during the summer, he must surely have been aware that he was not in for an easy time. During the 2009/10 season, Internazionale completed a historic twelve months for the club. Lead by Mourinho the Nerazzurri completed the treble by winning the UEFA Champions League, Serie A and the Coppa Italia.

Put simply, it would be a tough act to follow for any manager to follow. Unfortunately for the former Liverpool manager, his slow start has not done him any favours: Inter’s last four league results have managed only to increase the mounting pressure on his shoulders. Sunday’s 2-1 defeat to Chievo followed a disappointing loss in the Milan derby and before those two defeats Inter could only muster draws with Lecce and Brescia. Compared to last season, they are nine points behind their total after 13 games last season, and have only scored 14 goals compared to the 29 that they had managed with Mourinho in charge.

It does not get any easier for Rafa as he has to look up the table and see Inter’s bitter rivals are currently sitting top of the league table. A.C. Milan have not set the world alight with their football but they have pulled off a number of important results, and as the league heads towards its fourteenth matchday the red side of the San Siro already lead the blue half by nine points. That deficit is a mere three points less than the entire gap between the two teams when last term finished.

Of course there is a long way to go in the 2010/11 season but seeing their bitter rivals heading the way has not helped Benitez win support from his bosses. Inter club president Massimo Moratti blasted Benitez after their 1-0 defeat to Milan in derby, saying: “It wasn’t a great game; not just because we didn’t win but because it wasn’t a great derby. We had the opportunity to be playing with a numerical advantage but I didn’t see anything worthwhile. The derby is the derby and in my opinion you approach it with a different mentality.” Moratti’s last comment will be particularly painful for the new manager as Mourinho was constantly praised for inspiring big performances from his players.

To be fair to Benitez, he has not been completely supported since taking over. He has been unable to make his own mark on his first team squad. The biggest signings made by Inter during the summer were calling exciting youngsters Philippe Coutinho and Jonathan Biabiany back to the club and those deals were agreed before the Spaniard took over.

He still has a talented squad but the majority of the players working under Benitez have just enjoyed a career highlight season. It’s hard not to think that without a couple of completely fresh faces there won’t be the same level of desire amongst the players that would have been present twelve months ago.

Although the ease with which he has navigated the group stages of the Champions League has been a plus. Mourinho’s men had to produce two goals in five minutes against Dynamo Kiev to slip through behind Barcelona whereas Inter strolled past Twente on Wednesday night to secure their knockout place.

Of course, defeat to struggling Parma at the San Siro on Sunday could cause those positives to be quickly forgotten. Rafa Benitez is stuck managing game-to-game.

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