Milan and Inter, Take Heart: Chelsea and Manchester United Not Invincible

Giancarlo RinaldiCorrespondent IDecember 20, 2009

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 19:  Damien Duff of Fulham celebrates after scoring his team's third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Manchester United at Craven Cottage on December 19, 2009 in London, England.  (Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images)
Phil Cole/Getty Images

Abandon hope all Italian teams, or so we were told after the Champions League draw.

Fiorentina landed the toughest second-placed team in Bayern Munich and things went even worse for Inter and Milan. They would face the twin destroyers of the English Premiership, Chelsea and Manchester United.

A formality for Carlo Ancelotti and Alex Ferguson, most UK pundits reckoned.

The accepted line on Inter is that they are big bullies in Italy, but incapable when challenged by a European heavyweight. I have been tempted to voice that opinion myself.

While Milan, we surely all know by now, are old and slow. A side, they would have us believe, living entirely on past glories.

In contrast, the boys from Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford are depicted as almost invincible on European nights. Look at the Champions League betting if you don't believe me.

But the weekend threw a spanner in the works.

First of all Fulham (yes, you read that right) dished out a 3-0 drubbing to United.

It was undeniably an over-matched team in Fulham which took to the pitch but who is to say that situation might not be just the same, or even worse, come February?

With all respect to the boys from Craven Cottage and Roy Hodgson, surely whatever they can do, Milan can hope of matching.

Then struggling West Ham took on all-conquering Chelsea on Sunday afternoon, but the anticipated stroll for the Blues did not occur.

Instead, it took a controversial Frank Lampard penalty to get them a share of the spoils with Gianfranco Zola's men, who remain rooted near the bottom of the table.

I repeat my previous argument. Surely Inter can match whatever the Hammers can produce.

Of course, the odds still favour both English sides progressing to the Champions League quarterfinals, but it might not be the victory parade some have suggested.

Two relative minnows of the London football scene showed that with organisation, determination, and a dash of skill and good fortune, these "Invincibles" can be challenged.

Inter and Milan should be studying these performances for the rest of the winter and focusing on the weaknesses exposed by Fulham and West Ham.

If they do, the battle between Premiership and Serie A may not be the foregone conclusion so many people would have you believe.