MILAN (AFP) - Inter Milan's defeat to AS Roma at the weekend has sparked worries that the Serie A leaders are suffering from fatigue ahead of Wednesday's Champions League quarter-final, first leg at home to CSKA Moscow.
While the rest of Italy's teams crashed out of Europe one after another, Inter remain their country's only flagbearers on the continent and they are also still in the Italian Cup, facing a semi-final, second leg next month.
But while they are still on course for a remarkable treble, their league form has disintegrated over the last month and a half.
Although they beat English Premier League heavyweights Chelsea twice in the last round of the Champions League, at home they have been in crisis.
Two wins in nine matches has seen their once 14-point lead over second-placed AS Roma reduced to a single point.
But top scorer Diego Milito, who netted on Saturday but was denied an injury time equaliser by the post, claims tiredness will not stop his team.
"Are we tired? It's not easy playing in three competitions, you use up a lot of energy but we're going to keep going and try to do our best," he said.
"All these commitments are in themselves a motivation, not a problem. Our desire to win is stronger than our fatigue."
And that desire to win might just be stronger in Europe than at home as Inter bid to end a dire recent record on the continent and reach their first Champions League semi-final since 2003, when they lost to neighbours AC Milan, who went on to beat another Italian side Juventus in the final.
Coach Jose Mourinho was brought to the club as a replacement for Roberto Mancini, despite the Italian leading the team to three straight Serie A titles, in order to bring European success to the club.
He had an impressive record in the Champions League, winning it with Porto in 2004 and reaching two semi-finals with Chelsea.
He was excused last season's second round exit at the hands of then reigning champions Manchester United but the feeling is that a last four appearance is the very least expected of Mourinho this term.
But despite a difficult opening to their group stage campaign, they have since gone from strength to strength.
And they have history with their opponents having met them in the group stages two years ago.
Inter came through those games with a pair of victories but they were not without their difficulties.
They trailed 1-0 in Moscow and 2-0 in Milan before hitting back on both occasions.
They've also had the advantage of a trip to Russia already this season as they faced Rubin Kazan in their pool, earning a 1-1 draw in the cold.
However, if Inter are feeling jaded, their opponents' conditioning will be at the opposite end of the spectrum as they are only three games into their new domestic season.
But 2005 UEFA Cup winners CSKA are not the force they once were in Russia, having failed to win the title since 2006 and finishing only fifth last season, missing out on European qualification altogether.
It means their hopes of becomming the first Russian team to reach the last four of Europe's premier club competition since neighbours Spartak in 1991 are looking thin.
But they have had some encouraging results on their travels this season, drawing 3-3 at Old Trafford against Manchester United and winning at both Besiktas and Sevilla.
Whatever the result on Wednesday the teams will have little time to dwell on it as the second leg takes place just six days later.
|Coach: José Mourinho|
for G. Pandev 90+4'
|Costa Rica Primera Division Wrap: Herediano, Alajuelense reach final|
|Solbakken ready for Real challenge|
|Lucescu wary of wounded United|
|Argentina Primera Division Wrap: Belgrano finish with a win|
|Marseille to face Reims in Coupe de France|
|Marseille boss Anigo remains upbeat|
|We did not deserve to win, says Laudrup|
|Bury bring in Flitcroft|
|Primeira Liga: Vitoria Setubal 1 Academica 0|
|Bruce critcises Foy over ´clear-cut penalty´|
|Hyypia calls for more of the same|
|UEFA Champions League Preview: Marseille v Borussia Dortmund|
|Premier League: Swansea City 1 Hull City 1|
|Turkish Super Lig Wrap: Fenerbahce win again as Kasimpasa, Besiktas falter|
|Michel: Olympiacos deserve to qualify|
|Blanc ready for ´great challenge´ against Benfica|
|Ancelotti plays down talk of Di Maria spat|
|Bayern game is important, insists Pellegrini|
|UEFA Champions League Preview: Austria Vienna v Zenit St Petersburg|
|Juve will not be affected by Pirlo absence, says Conte|
|Dalman pledges Mackay support|
|Mancini expects Sneijder to play|
|UEFA Champions League Preview: Schalke v Basel|
|Celtic ban 128 fans after crowd trouble|
|UEFA Champions League Preview: Atletico Madrid v Porto|
|Moyes takes responsibility for United setbacks|
|Clarke vows to improve West Brom fortunes|
|Jesus calls for Benfica focus|
|Song settled at Barcelona|
|Howard: Everton more confident than ever|
|Guardiola aiming for maximum points|
|Jarvis calls for fighting spirit at West Ham|
|Stekelenburg targets Everton scalp|
|Messi, Ronaldo, Ribery on Ballon d´Or shortlist|
|Van der Vaart set for return|
|Expert urges ´careful´ approach over match-fixing|
|Ronaldo returns to Real Madrid squad|
|Pardew warns of ´dangerous´ Newcastle|
|Barker appointed Portsmouth boss|
|Assaidi remains hopeful of Liverpool future|
|Bayern will need to be at their best, says Kroos|
|UEFA Champions League Preview: Barcelona v Celtic|
|Tricky run does not concern Arsenal, Mertesacker insists|
|Blackburn striker Campbell arrested in match-fixing probe|
|UEFA Champions League Preview: Milan v Ajax|
|Cahill: Chelsea have to stop mistakes|
|Paranaense slam ´barbaric events´ in Vasco clash|
|Rodgers endorses Coutinho´s World Cup chances|
|Liga MX Wrap: Leon, America into final|
|Ranieri delighted with narrow win|
|Colombia Primera A Wrap: Atletico Nacional win again|
|Uruguay Primera Division Wrap: Tight title race continues|
|Liga del Futbol Profesional Boliviano Wrap: Bolivar stay top|
|Chile Primera Division Wrap: Universidad Catolica claim top spot|
|Ecuador Primera A Wrap: Champions Emelec finish with a win|
|Copa del Rey Wrap: Osasuna, Espanyol claim comeback draws|
|Barkley can be England´s ´diamond´, says Martinez|
|Ligue 1 Wrap: Monaco into second with win, Lille beaten|
|Mazzarri adamant Inter were denied ´clear´ penalty|
|Brazil Serie A Wrap: Fluminense, Vasco relegated as violence mars final weekend|
|Serie A Wrap: Roma back on track, Inter held at home|
|Primeira Liga Wrap: Sporting move top, Olhanense lose again|
|Serie A: Inter 3 Parma 3|
|Peru Primera Division: Real Garcilaso 3 Universitario 2|
|Fan clashes mar Brazilian league fixture|
|Bundesliga Wrap: Wolfsburg win again, Hertha up to seventh|
|Wenger praises Everton performance|
|Martinez delighted with Everton display|
|Eredivisie Wrap: Feyenoord stay in touch with top three, Groningen lose at home|
|UEFA Champions League Preview: Benfica v Paris Saint-Germain|
|Premier League: Arsenal 1 Everton 1|
|UEFA Champions League Preview: Bayern Munich v Manchester City|
|Meulensteen confident over Berbatov future|
|Arsenal to face Tottenham in FA Cup third round|
|Lambert disappointed with refereeing decisions|
|Russian Premier League Wrap: Zenit back on top, Spartak close the gap|
|Leonardo: PSG tried to sign Ronaldo|
|Cocu defiant despite heavy PSV defeat|
|Premier League: Fulham 2 Aston Villa 0|
|Garcia delighted as Roma back on form|
|Paulinho hails Tottenham resilience|
|UEFA Champions League Preview: Manchester United v Shakhtar Donetsk|
|Hughes sees Stoke progression|
|Marcelo tips Kaka for FIFA World Cup recall|
|Pochettino sticks to attacking philosophy|
|Milner bemoans City travel sickness|
|Laudrup looking for striker boost|
|Juve will not miss Pirlo, says Mancini|
|Poyet has own goal concerns|
|Coloccini: We have learnt from our mistakes|
|Buffon fires Hart a World Cup warning|
|Hughton urges Hooper service|
|Hyypia hails ´important´ win over Dortmund|
|Clarke frustrated with penalty decision|
|Moyes confident in Manchester United squad|
|Mourinho: Chelsea are in trouble|
|Six arrested in new match-fixing probe|
|A-League: Melbourne Victory 1 Newcastle Jets 2|
|Allardyce furious with Nolan indiscipline|
|Keller: Korb deserved a red card|
|Balotelli still confident despite late miss|
|Benitez bemoans errors, Guidolin thrilled with draw|
|No worries for Madrid after Copa del Rey draw|
|Son expected goal and victory against Dortmund|
|Paraguay Division Profesional Wrap: Cerro Porteno finish Clausura unbeaten|
|MLS Cup: Sporting Kansas City 1 Real Salt Lake 1 (7-6 on pens)|
|Guardiola thrilled with Bayern´s complete performance|
|Garcia focused on attractive football, Roma´s fans - not Juve|
|Copa del Rey Wrap: Real held, holders Atletico all but through|
|Primeira Liga Wrap: Martinez sends Porto top, Estoril see off Pacos|