Inter short of firepower for Coppa semi-final

April 14, 2008

ROME, April 14 (Reuters) - Serie A leaders Inter Milan are likely to be short of strikers for Wednesday's home Italian Cup semi-final first leg with Lazio (1845 GMT) because of injuries and suspensions.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is not expected to return from a knee problem while Julio Cruz and 17-year-old Mario Balotelli, who formed Inter's strike partnership in Sunday's 2-0 win over Fiorentina, are suspended along with Portuguese midfielder Pele.

The loss of in-form Balotelli is a big blow even though coach Roberto Mancini still has two quality forwards to call on in Hernan Crespo and David Suazo.

The youth-team product has scored four goals in the Cup so far and his cool finish on Sunday helped Inter maintain their four-point advantage in the league over AS Roma, who entertain Catania in the other semi-final first leg on Wednesday (1600).

Juventus will also be in action midweek (1900), with a league game against Parma which was postponed last month after the death of a Parma fan travelling to the encounter.

Inter's opponents will be fresh for the Cup clash after Lazio coach Delio Rossi rested most of his first-choice players in Sunday's 1-1 draw with Siena.

They should be fired up too, as the Cup is mid-table Lazio's best hope of qualifying for European competition next season.

Holders Roma face a Catania side who are looking to put their relegation worries aside. The visitors are two points above the Serie A drop zone after losing Saturday's derby with Sicilian rivals Palermo 1-0.

After consolidating third place by beating AC Milan 3-2 on Saturday, a home win over struggling Parma will virtually wrap up a Champions League qualification slot for Juve.

Juventus defender Nicola Legrottaglie and midfielder Momo Sissoko suffered knocks against Milan and are in doubt for Wednesday.

But captain Alessandro Del Piero, who scored his 14th league goal of the season at the weekend, will be looking to boost his chances of a place in Italy's Euro 2008 squad.

The return legs of the Cup semi-finals will be played on May 7.