x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Inter must overcome poor spell

When Zlatan Ibrahimovic used to play for Juventus, the fans came up with a chant for him that turned his name into a magic spell "Ibracadabra", as in Abracadabra, for the way "Ibra" could transform a match like a conjurer.

When Zlatan Ibrahimovic used to play for Juventus, the fans came up with a chant for him that turned his name into a magic spell "Ibracadabra", as in Abracadabra, for the way "Ibra" could transform a match like a conjurer. At Inter, Ibrahimovic's home for the last two years, a less celebratory term are being used. Inter fans fear the team are suffering Zlatandependence.

Inter do lean on the striker. He is the coach Jose Mourinho's favourite player. Only twice in the Serie A season has the Swede played fewer than 90 minutes. In that time, he has scored 12 goals - 40 per cent of Inter's total. No one else has more than four. Ibrahimovic's goals have seen Inter through some difficult games, and kept them at the top of the league. Today Inter, in their poorest run of the season, take on Sampdoria without the striker, who is suspended.

That means Mourinho must look for someone else to lead the line. Of the candidates, Adriano has been in trouble for indiscipline and Mario Balotelli marginalised for "attitude problems", while the summer signings, Mancini and Ricardo Quaresma, fell from favour long ago. So Hernan Crespo seems likely to shoulder the burden. Mourinho also needs his midfield to show more enterprise that it did during last Sunday's 3-1 defeat at Atalanta. Inter have yet to win in the league in 2009, which is not the form of champions. Nor were they impressive the last time they played Sampdoria, in the opening game of the campaign.

Sampdoria, though, have been feeble on the road. There are probably worse fixtures for Ibrahimovic to have to miss. ihawkey@thenational.ae