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Soccer-Struggling Inter aim to save season at Fiorentina

Reuters

By Terry Daley

ROME, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Troubled Inter Milan will seek to kick-start their stuttering season in a bid to avoid missing out on European football for a second year when they travel to in-form Fiorentina on Saturday.

The Italian giants lie fifth in Serie A but have started 2014 poorly, winning one game since the turn of the year, last week's scrappy 1-0 victory over lowly Sassuolo.

Walter Mazzarri's side have struggled on the road, losing all four away matches in 2014 which includes a 1-0 defeat by Udinese that knocked them out of the Italian Cup at the quarter-final stage.

"Up to now this year hasn't been particularly good compared to how Inter have done historically," admitted Mazzarri on Wednesday.

Their poor results have led to criticism of new president Erick Thohir, who bought a 70 percent stake in the club in November but who spends little time in the city.

January's aborted deal which would have seen midfielder Fredy Guarin head to Juventus in a swap with forward Mirko Vucinic was called off after fan protests, further souring relations with their bitter rival.

"I would say that he (Thohir) needs to be here more often and have people here who he can trust 100 percent, because that's the only way he can gain the faith of everyone," said former president Massimo Moratti on Monday.

Inter could be without major January signing Hernanes for the trip to Florence, with the Brazilian struggling with a thigh muscle injury.

By contrast, Fiorentina have lost only once in the league since a narrow 2-1 defeat at AS Roma in early December, and have won five of their subsequent eight league fixtures.

EUROPEAN BATTLE

They have also booked their place in the Italian Cup final with Napoli in May, with whom they are also in a battle for Italy's third Champions League spot.

Napoli hold a three point advantage.

Fiorentina are boosted by the return of Mario Gomez, who has been out of action since suffering knee ligament damage in September.

The Germany striker was on the bench for Tuesday's 2-0 Cup semi-final second leg win over Udinese and may feature against Inter, who could find themselves without European football for a second consecutive season if they don't start winning matches.

They are tied on 36 points with surprise-package Hellas Verona, who host flamboyant Torino on Monday, themselves level with Parma three points back.

With Cup finalists Fiorentina and Napoli almost certain to take a Champions League place, there should be a Europa League spot for whoever finishes sixth.

Ninth-placed Lazio, who are four points behind Inter, face bottom side Catania on Sunday.

Clarence Seedorf's Milan, 11th with 29 points, will be hoping to bounce back from last week's crushing 3-1 loss at Napoli when they host struggling Bologna on Friday.

They will hope to have Mario Balotelli fully focused, after the forward was pictured crying on the bench after being substituted.

"I think he might be going through a difficult time because of his daughter, who is in Napoli, and I think he wanted to score for her," said new team mate Adel Taarabt.

"I think we need to stay close to him and give him love because he's a super player and we really need him." (Editing by Josh Reich)

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