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By ESPN Staff
Jan 23, 2007

Coppa Italia Inter look to in-form hitman Adriano

ROME, Jan 23 (Reuters) - The return to form of Inter Milan striker Adriano will have boosted the holders's confidence ahead of Wednesday's trip to Sampdoria for the first leg of their Italian Cup semi-final).

The game is the first of two in five days between the teams. Inter return to Genoa again on Sunday in an attempt to extend their run of 13 Serie A wins in a row.

Adriano, who was criticised in the Italian media for being out of shape and overweight after failing to score in his first 13 matches for the club, has hit the target in each of his last four games.

The Brazilian gave his best performance yet for the Serie A leaders last weekend, setting up one goal and scoring another in a 3-1 win over Fiorentina.

That display prompted Brazil coach Dunga to recall him for the friendly with Portugal in London on Feb. 6 and earned praise from Inter coach Roberto Mancini.

'In the last month he has started to train seriously again. Now he just has to continue the good work,' Mancini was quoted as saying in La Gazzetta dello Sport.

'He had arrived at a critical point in his career, and he understood just in time that it was time to turn a page.

'The merit for his return to form is all his and his team mates, who have always encouraged and put their faith in him.'

Adriano is expected to start against Sampdoria but even if he does not, Inter can still call on Argentine internationals Hernan Crespo and Julio Cruz, who has recovered from a knee injury.

Sampdoria, who won the Cup four times between 1985 and 1994, are weakened by injuries to defender Giulio Falcone and midfielder Gennaro Delvecchio, and have lost Emiliano Bonazzoli to the flu.

Sampdoria held Inter to a 1-1 draw at the San Siro stadium in September and Mancini was not expecting an easy match.

'Sampdoria are among the few teams to have stopped us in Serie A this season. I'm expecting a very difficult tie,' he said.

In the other semi-final tie, AC Milan host AS Roma on Thursday.

The game will be a chance for Milan to show off their latest signing - Italy defender Massimo Oddo, who was joined for 7.75 millions euros ($10.09 million) from Lazio on Tuesday.

Roma, beaten by Inter in the last two Cup finals, are expected to field a strong side, with midfielders Daniele De Rossi and David Pizarro returning to the starting line-up after missing Sunday's 1-1 draw at Livorno due to suspension.