His team have been Italian champions for the past four seasons and top Serie A by five points, but defeat in the one competition they desire the most has lead to questions about the future of the Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho. The loss at Barcelona in midweek has left Inter's hopes of progressing to the last 16 of the Champions League in the balance. Victory in their final group game against Rubin Kazan would seal their passage, but the manner of the performance at the Camp Nou caused a stir in Milan.
Mourinho's team host Fiorentina today, a side already qualified for the Champions League second round, at the San Siro. The criticism of Mourinho - a manager who has won the league with three clubs in three countries - has been such that his president Massimo Moratti has come out in his defence. On suggestions the former Chelsea manager Mourinho's job could be in jeopardy, Moratti said: "Absolutely not. There's no problem at all. We continue with the same faith.
"He will certainly analyse that match and he will have to look at the players and the tactics. "It will be him who has to do this, but there's complete faith in someone who so far has replied to this faith." It was certainly not the Inter who have lost just once and opened up a five-point lead at the top of Serie A who were defeated 2-0 in midweek. "I am disappointed because we practically stayed in Milan," said Moratti. "It was a useless trip. And I think that we saw the players go missing. I think it was an isolated episode, because something like this has never happened before and I think it ends there.
"This doesn't cancel out our good play in other matches, it doesn't cancel out the continuous growth and the fact that we are having an excellent season. We played a terrible match at the wrong time." Moratti's view is supported by the bare statistics of champions Inter's season: they are comfortably top scorers with 32 goals in just 13 matches, 10 of which they have won. Strikers Diego Milito and Samuel Eto'o have provided the firepower to cover the departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the top scorer in Italy last season, netting 14 times between them. Fiorentina, in contrast, have lost their way in the league after an impressive start, slipping to sixth on the back of just two wins from seven games.
With progress from Liverpool's group of the Champions League guaranteed by the win over Lyon, however, confidence will be high and it would be an opportune time to concentrate on domestic matters once more. The Viola have been sound in defence this campaign with former Inter goalkeeper Sebastien Frey behind a back-four accountable for just a dozen goals. Midfielder Riccardo Montolivo refused to be intimidated by the trip to the San Siro.
"We are going into a very difficult game and on paper Inter have the advantage, but we are certainly not scared," Montolivo told www.tribalfootball.com. "We will go to Milan aiming to confirm all the good things we have done up until now and prove we are the team seen against Lyon." They will not want to be the team seen against Parma last week, though, after they came out second best in a five-goal thriller.
Top scorer Alberto Gilardino struck twice, either side of Parma going 2-1 ahead, but the visitors exploited Cesare Prandelli's recent Serie A susceptibility. * With agencies Inter v Fiorentina, KO 6pm, Aljazeera Sport + 1