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Lazio coach’s breath on Cuper’s shoulders

Milan: The knifes were being sharpened long before Inter Milan’s Champions League exit at the hands of AC Milan and coach Hector Cuper has now felt the first cuts of the blade.

Inter were applauded off the field by their fans following the 1-1 draw with Milan on Tuesday that led to their elimination on the ‘away goals’ rule.

The response from the 77,000 crowd was a just reaction to a battling and determined display from Cuper’s team who went the distance with their city rivals.

But Wednesday’s newspapers cared little for the paying public’s genuine appreciation for the team’s efforts. “Cuper is going, it’s Mancini” read a headline in the daily Gazzetta Dello Sport, suggesting that Lazio coach Roberto Mancini will be taking over.

Cuper may have few allies in the media but he is popular within the game, Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti launching an unusually strong defence of his counterpart and Inter captain Javier Zanetti also offering his support.

“He has done great work with Inter — it is years since we got to the semi-finals in this competition,” Zanetti said. “Last season we missed out on the title on the last day. There is great consistency working with Cuper. I have great faith in a coach who has brought Inter back to the highest level,” he added.

The Argentine’s future is now in the hands of Inter president Massimo Moratti, who is desperate to end a 14-year wait for the Italian title.

Moratti has long dreamed of repeating the European success the club enjoyed when his father Angelo was president.

Cuper has no intention of quitting but admits his future is out of his hands. “I can’t say much about that, other people will have to evaluate what I have done,” he said.

“This sort of talk is part of the job and you have to deal with it.”

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