Antonio Conte finds the winning formula with Inter

It may have taken Antonio Conte two seasons at Inter, but the veteran tactician appears to have found the winning formula in Milano. The Nerazzurri have been in emphatic form in recent months and have since run away as title favorites. With both Milan and Juventus struggling for form, Inter is now well on its way to its first Scudetto in 11 years – but how have they got here?

Initially, Inter sporting director Giuseppe Marotta backed his manager heavily in the transfer window. The likes of Nicolo Barella, Romelu Lukaku, and Achraf Hakimi were all brought in and remain crucial pieces to the puzzle. That being said, it still takes a manager to put it all together.

Conte has toiled with a number of different lineups and setups before finally establishing his winning formula. The veteran tactician has since gone with Stefan de Vrij, Alessandro Bastoni, and Milan Skriniar at the back, offering the side some much-needed stability. The trio possesses an interesting blend of experience and youth and are all capable of playing from out from the back.

Beyond its staunch backline, Inter boasts one of Italy’s best midfield units. Conte has a number of options on the bench including Stefano Sensi and Arturo Vidal but appears to have finally decided on his best lineup. The former Azzurri boss deploys Marcelo Brozovic from the deepest role and flanks him with Christian Eriksen and Nicolo Barella.

The former was almost on his way out in January but has since undergone a resurgence of sorts. Eriksen has played a crucial role for Inter in recent weeks, adding creativity between the lines. Brozovic is tasked with sitting back and dictating the tempo, while Barella is Inter’s all-action midfielder. The former Cagliari man is a constant menace in the final third and is always looking to combine dangerously with Romelu Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi.

Moving forward to the attack. Inter’s one-two punch of Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez is among the very best in football. The Belgian international has taken his game to another level under Conte and enters the final stretch of the season in sensational form. Martinez, on the other hand, is arguably playing the best football of his young career, stringing together a number of positive outings together since the turn of the new year. The duo possesses the necessary speed, power, and skill to unlock any defence and could very well prove to be the difference for Inter.

An article on Conte’s Inter would not be complete with a brief discussion on the wingbacks. Hakimi marauds the right flank at will, tormenting defenders, while Perisic’s improvement as a left wingback has been notable. Both wingbacks offer Inter the stability and creativity they need from the wide areas.

With Juventus in a transition season, the title is very much Inter’s for the taking. The Nerazzurri have been the best side in Italy this season and have shown no signs of slowing down. When Inter initially brought Conte in, the goal was to dethrone Juventus. With just 14 games left, the Italian tactician is set to deliver.

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Juventus knock Inter out of the Coppa Italia as Conte clashes with Juve president

Inter are out of the Coppa Italia after their 2nd leg semi-final clash ended 0-0 against Juventus. The first leg was won by Juventus 2-1 and so Juventus have made the final.

After the final whistle though it appeared that Inter coach Antonio Conte had raised his middle finger to Juventus officials, some have pointed out that it was directed at the Juventus president. However there have been claims that Andrea Agnelli swore at Conte and tensions boiled over.

The game itself had its moments but as the time ran down and Inter who needed to attack more got few chances the writing looked on the wall that they wouldn’t be able to conjure up a great comeback. The game as a whole felt level and even though Inter had created 18 goal chances only 4 of those were on target.

In the early exchanges as expected Inter attacked and Lautaro Martinez felt he should have had a penalty but it was waved away. Soon after Romelu Lukaku came close with a thundering header which wasn’t too far off of its target. With nine minutes of the game to go Achraf Hakimi who has been very impressive in attack even if he is a defender came close to scoring with a superb shot and had that gone in it would certainly have changed the complexion of the game and we would have been in for quite an exciting last 10 minutes or so.

Inter coach Conte had this to say after the game, “ We paid for the first leg, for some gifts we gave them. We tried to score until the end, because with one goal, they would have had more difficulty. I’m sorry because these are matches that are played in 180 minutes. Today we tried in every way with desire and determination. You make mistakes you have to learn from mistakes and then start over and try again.”

While the disappointment of going out of the cup at the semi-final stage has dampened spirits throughout the Inter squad they will now have to refocus for their next league game at the weekend and it won’t be easy as it is against Lazio.

As for the league the title is still on and Inter are in 2nd place on 47 points and just 2 points behind Milan who keep winning. Last weekend Inter recorded their 14th win of the season from 21 games played as they beat Fiorentina 2-0 away from home.

Nicolo Barella opened the scoring for the visitors after an Alexis Sanchez pass and his curling shot from the edge of the area was a stunner. That was Barella’s third goal of the season.

Early in the second half Ivan Perisic made it 2 after Hakimi broke free down the right wing and squared it to Perisic who was unmarked and it was an easy slot in. Lukaku missed a few good chances but this was a game that was never in doubt and Fiorentina were quite toothless.

Inter’s will play Lazio next on Sunday evening at San Siro while Milan are away to Spezia a day earlier.

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Inter knock Milan out of Coppa Italia and reduce gap at the top of Serie A to 2 points

Last weekend would have felt like an opportunity missed for Inter but they were back to good thoughts by midweek. In their latest league game Inter could only draw 0-0 away to Udinese. A point is good away from home but it would have felt like loss given that rivals Milan lost at home to Atalanta.

This past week presented a chance for Inter to join Milan on the same points, but it wasn’t to be. However Inter did close the gap to just 2 points to Milan and have applied a little more pressure on them. However Roma and Juventus also won at the weekend and the pressure is now on Inter themselves.

As for the Udinese game Inter were the best team and had more of the possession and some genuine chances on goal. They stayed well disciplined at the back and reduced Udinese to just 1 shot on target the whole game. Inter never seemed like they were going to lose this match, but they would have been frustrated at not scoring at least one goal.

Lautaro Martinez thought he had scored a goal for Inter after just six minutes of the game but VAR ruled it out for offside. Man of the moment Achraf Hakimi who for a defender has been superb in front of goal this season almost won the game for Inter with just a quarter of an hour left to play but his shot skimmed the post. It was one of those games that simply wasn’t to be for Inter. However they did avoid defeat and have now gone 3 games unbeaten.

Not beating Udinese though was overshadowed by Inter coach Antonio Conte being sent off just before the final whistle. Conte had a clash of words with the referee that reportedly continued after the game and in the tunnel where insults were heard. Whilst Conte could be looking at a two game suspension from the dug out the Italian FA may also look into what Fabio Maresca, the referee also said and he himself could be looking at a suspension.

Inter knock rivals Milan out of the Coppa Italia

Whatever the disappointment at the weekend it was made up in midweek in the Coppa Italia as the game of the round which had been hyped up for some time was won by Inter in the Milan derby.

What made the victory extra sweet for Inter was that they were losing the game 1-0 courtesy of a Zlatan Ibrahimovic opener. However with 20 minutes to go Inter were awarded a penalty and Romelu Lukaku converted it. But the game would end in dramatic style.

In the 97th minute, the game had to be extended because of injury breaks, who else but Christian Eriksen got the winner and sent Inter through to the next round. As everyone connected with Italian football knows Eriksen looked like a sure fire deal to be transferred out of the club this month as he didn’t seem to fit in Conte’s plans. But the coach had a change of heart just before Christmas and decided to keep Eriksen at the club, for this game at least that decision paid off richly.

Romelu v Zlatan

Romelu Lukaku and Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic clashed on the pitch as the two brilliant strikers reached boiling point. It seemed that the two clashed on the pitch and Lukaku had reportedly ‘invited’ Ibrahimovic to meet him after the match. It sounded like fighting talk. Ibrahimovic is said to have replied ‘do your voodoo s***’.

Racial allegations were then thrown towards Ibrahimovic although it was quickly pointed out that the voodoo reference was  a joke from Lukaku’s days at his former club Everton.

Ibrahimovic has since apologised to Milan for the row with Lukaku which ended with the Swede sent off just before the hour mark. On reflection it seems that Ibrahimovic was not being racist but cheeky, oh these derbies always bring out passions, and this match was no different. Who can wait for the Milan derby in the league? That game is scheduled for February 21st.

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Martinez the hat trick hero as Inter hit Crotone for 6

Inter beat Crotone 6-2 to march on in Serie A and they are just a point behind Milan in what is looking like a two horse race now for the league title.

Inter have not lost in 10 games and they have earned 26 points from their last 30 as they continue their relentless route chasing Milan. It was a fantastic performance from Antonio Conte’s team although what was incredible is that they actually went behind in the game.

Crotone took a surprise lead as early as the 12th minute from a headed cross but less than 20 minutes later Inter were leading the game. First through Lautaro Martinez who hadn’t stopped scoring goals up until now but had gone a little goal shy for his standard. Martinez smashed home superbly from a Romelu Lukaku assist and even though it was only 1-1 you got the feeling at that moment that there would only be one winner. Soon it was 2-1 due to an own goal, though it appeared that Martinez had scored his second but replays showed he clearly hadn’t.

But the excitement was not over yet when just a few minutes later Crotone were awarded a penalty and converted for 2-2, the teams went in at half time with this score. Whilst Inter had been technically the much better side there was no denying that the visitors had played a good first half and had many threats on goal themselves.

Martinez made it 3-2 just before the hour mark from a tight angle- he was so full of confidence in this game. A few minutes later the power and strength of Lukaku shrugged off a few defenders to make it 4-2 and now the game looked like Inter would collect all three points.

A 5th goal came and it was Martinez’s hat trick after he was in the right place when a shot was saved but he pounced on the re bound with his head from just a few yards out. Achraf Hakimi who has been in brilliant form for Conte’s team rounded off the game by making it 6-2. Matteo Darmian assisted Hakimi who scored from a thundering shot and the defender ironically probably scored the best goal of the game.

Inter’s 3 best performing players so far this season:

1. Romelu Lukaku 52pts

Lukaku has scored 12 goals and assisted in a further 3 and is having arguably his best season in his career to date and has the most points of any player at Inter.

2. Lautaro Martinez 42pts

Martinez recently picked up 14 points in one game v Crotone and looks like being one of the really special forwards in this new era of football. He has scored 9 goals and made another three.

3. Achraf Hakimi 32pts

Hakimi looks like he is everywhere on the pitch and has so much passion and desire. For a defender his stats are fantastic and he has scored 5 goals and assisted in another three. He has also helped to keep 3 clean sheets.

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Inter record 10th win of the season as they hunt down Milan in Serie A

10 wins from just 15 games means that Inter are just a single point behind their rivals Milan in the chase for the Serie A title.

For Inter it would have been 11 years next year since they won the league and Milan 10. The two teams from the San Siro have had to watch Juventus run riot in the league over the past 9 incredible seasons, that could be set to end this season though. Milan are 10 points in front of the old lady although the champions do have game in hand. But Milan end the year as ‘winter champions’ and that could be a good omen.

As for Inter they have been incredibly strong this season and if not for Milan’s brilliant start which has seen the black and reds go unbeaten so far Inter would easily be top. Inter themselves have only lost one game and this latest victory against Verona away from home means that Antonio Conte’s side have won their last 5 games in a row and would be 1st in the league on form.

Just before Christmas was the last batch of Serie A games to take place this year and Inter travelled to Verona. It would be a game that Conte’s team would win 2-1.

Inter played some good football in the first half but it wasn’t a memorable one for either side as they had just 1 shot on target each and the first 45 minutes ended with the score at 0-0.

However just seven minutes into the 2nd half Inter were able to break the deadlock through striker Lautaro Martinez. It was an important feat for the Argentine player given that he had been quiet in front of goal in the last few weeks. A cross by Hakimi found an unmarked Martinez who swung his body in the right direction to score a fine goal, with the way the game was panning out it felt like it could be the only goal of the game and the winner.

However just 10 minutes later Verona found an equaliser. Ivan IIic could hardly miss as a cross should have easily been covered by Inter goal keeper Samir Handanovic but the keeper made a rare mistake and fumbled the ball into the path of IIic who was just a few yards from goal and it was 1-1.

With Romelu Lukaku having a quiet game it would be left to an unlikely hero for Inter to get the winning goal. Aptly named Milan, his full name Milan Skriniar of course, the defender rose high to head in a powerful shot which left the keeper stranded. Skriniar looked surprised and this was his first goal of the season, but what an important one to give Inter all three points.

Inter’s next game is at home against Crotone who are in 19th place on January 3rd.

Best Inter Players for Each Position So Far This Season

Goalkeeper: Samir Handanovic 8pts

This was an easy one given that Handanovic has played every game and Inter’s other keepers haven’t had a chance yet. However one would expect more points from a goalkeeper whose team are in 2nd place. This is because Inter have conceded goals and he has only been able to keep 3 clean sheets so far.

Defender: Achraf Hakimi 28pts

Hakimi has been very solid and is by far leading for Inter’s defenders. Along with his 3 clean sheets he has also contributed to seven goals for the club, scoring 4 and assisting in 3 which of course is very impressive for a defender.

Midfielder: Nicolo Barella 16pts

Barella leads from Roberto Gagliardini by two points and has been a very important player for the club scoring once but also assisting in a further 4 goals.

Striker: Romelu Lukaku 46pts

Easily out in front is the one and only Lukaku who has been magnificent this season. He already has 11 goals and has assisted in 2 more and is feeling very confident. Last season was a landmark one for him and this one could even be better.

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Romelu Lukaku can fire Inter to the Serie A title as club win 6th game in a row

One week and two wins have kept Inter in 2nd place in Serie A but the gap between them and their rivals Milan is now just 1 point. The good news is that the 3rd placed team Napoli are six points behind Inter and because the 9 time in a row champions Juventus lost at the weekend they are also trailing by six points.

It has been an incredible week for Inter who first had to face a top 4 rival in Napoli in midweek. It was always going to be a tricky game for Antonio Conte’s men and they were clearly the second best on the night. But in the end it didn’t matter, Inter came out 1-0 winners after a moment of madness from Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne who gave away a penalty.

Romelu Lukaku kept his nerve to score his 10th goal of the season and the penalty would ultimately separate the teams. It was a huge win for the club.

Coach Conte was of course in full praise of his team. “A win like this one can do well, that’s what I told the boys.  It was not easy, Napoli are a great team It was a tactical match, with great respect on both sides. It was not a great game, but these are important points against an ambitious team like Napoli, always protagonist of our championship, these points are worth double.”

Inter followed up this win with another victory at the weekend as they beat Spezia 2-1. In fairness the first half was nothing to write home about as Spezia set up to defend and try to get a point at San Siro. It was no surprise that the first half ended 0-0. And Spezia had zero shots on goal and even Inter only had one.

The breakthrough finally came later in the second half when a terrific Lautaro Martinez pass found Achraf Hakimi on the right hand side who still had plenty to do but the in form player made no mistakes to put Inter 1-0 up.

A few minutes later it felt like game over when VAR had to intervene after an incident in the Spezia area which awarded a penalty to Inter. Lukaku who had scored against Napoli in the previous game from the spot came forward again and yet again made no mistakes to score his 11th goal of the season. Spezia did pull one back right at the death but the game was over and Inter saw it out.

In the fantasy points Romelu Lukaku leads with 46 points. The defender Achraf Hakimi who has scored 4 goals and been involved in seven altogether in a quite remarkable season so far has 29 points. In third place is Lautaro Martinez with 28.

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Inter make it 3 wins in a row but thoughts turn to Champions League

Three league wins in a row has put Inter in 2nd place on 21 points and they are 5 points behind city rivals Milan.

Inter’s latest win came at home against Bologna when they won 3-1. Romelu Lukaku who is in the best form of his career opened the scoring but the plaudits wouldn’t go to him, neither would they go to the delightful talents of Lautaro Martinez. No there was a new hero for a new weekend and that belonged to Achraf Hakimi. The 22 year old scored 2 goals to confirm a great win for Antonio Conte’s side.

Lukaku scored his 8th goal of the league season and he saved his blushes at the same time. A cross was met by the swinging leg of the Belgian and the would be goal could have been a great one but Lukaku scuffed the shot, but got the luck of a second chance and made no mistake to put Inter 1-0 up,

Inter were soon 2-0 up and cruising after a delightful pass right through the middle by Marcelo Brozovic found Hakimi who still had a quite a bit to do on the edge of the area and made no mistakes in firing home, it was a beautifully worked goal between two players who made it look rather simple.

The first half ended 2-0 but in the second Bologna gave Inter food for thought by pulling a goal back through Emanuel Vignato. It was plain and simple bad defending which led to the goal and it could have been converted a couple of times in mad cap defending and the ball rebounding until it fell to Vignato who was never going to make any mistakes from such short range out. All of a sudden with twenty minutes remaining it was game on.

However just three minutes later Hakimi scored a superb solo goal running from just inside Bologna’s half, he had quite a bit of space and only needed to fend off one player but he kept running and had his shot which flew into the net. That killed the game off and any faint hope that Bologna had.

Antonio Conte was happy with his side who had 9 shots on target and are a point clear of Juventus, he said: “The lads are beginning to learn, if we don’t keep maximum concentration, we run risks and concede avoidable goals. Unlike other countries, in Italy we play a very tactical football. We therefore alternate periods of high press with waiting and then being aggressive on the ball.”

There was also praise for Hakimi, the man of the match. “This lad is 20 years old and had just two seasons at Dortmund, where they play a much less tactical style of football. Haki is working hard, he has realised the difference between playing in Italy and Germany, where the opponents don’t study you as much, where they don’t identify your characteristics as precisely. I think he is in the right team and with the right coach to become one of the best in the world in his role. It will require a lot of work, but I’m very happy, because this type of performance will boost his confidence, whereas errors in the past might’ve dented his self-belief. He needs a balance, it’s going to be a process.”

Inter will be the favourites to win their next league game when they take on Cagliari away from home. Milan will play Parma at San Siro.

Inter need a win for them and Real Madrid

Even though Inter are in 4th place in their Champions League group, they can still incredibly qualify for the knock out stages but they will need to beat Shakhtar Donetsk. They are at home and many people will feel they have no excuses not to get the job done. At the same time Real Madrid who have not been on form will need to beat Borussia Monchengladbach for Inter to have a chance to qualify. The good news is that Real cannot relax and will need a win to make certain of progression, so it is all up for grabs.

Best Inter players in the fantasy rankings

The player that scored the most points over the weekend was of course Achraf Hakimi. It would have been more but the defender was also booked. He has 18 points overall and is the third best ranked player. Romelu Lukaku leads the rankings with a total of 35 points and is followed by Martinez with 20.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Six – Top Matches

INTER-PARMA

Inter: Romelu Lukaku suffered a thigh injury that will cost him at least one game and the Nerazzurri will have to make up for the loss of their target man, something that rarely happened last year. Alexis Sanchez is dealing with a small problem as well, therefore Lautaro Martinez, who has slowed down after opening the campaign with three straight goals, will have to shoulder the attack, then they will hope Andrea Pinamonti can be decent right away. They also briefly used Ivan Perisic as second-striker in the last game. Stefano Sensi is back on the shelf with his customary muscular problems: Christian Eriksen had some flashes last week, but so far him and Marcelo Brozovic have produced nothing too exciting. Their best midfielder has been Nicolò Barella (two assists), while Arturo Vidal has mostly taken care of the dirty work. At some point Radja Nainggolan will get in on the action, but it has not happened yet. Fortunately, Achraf Hakimi (one goal, two assists) was a false positive and he will resume plowing the flank from the start here, while Ashley Young has shaken off the virus and will challenge Ivan Perisic, who has been solid (two assists) but has not really taken off. Their back-line has improved with Alessandro Bastoni back in the fold.

Recommended picks: Martinez, Perisic, Hakimi.  Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round Five

Atalanta: Matteo Pessina returned in Champions League from a late-season patellar dislocation. Ruslan Malinovskyi had an old scar in his adductor flare up and missed the previous game, but he is set to be available SaturdayCristiano Piccini (knee) could return sooner rather than later, while Pierluigi Gollini (knee) is at least two weeks away.

Benevento: Nicolas Viola has resumed practicing after his meniscus surgery and made the squad list. Gabriele Moncini and Federico Barba are out again to muscular problems and are joined in that regard by Iago Falque.  Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Previews – Round Five – Top Matches

ATALANTA-SAMPDORIA

Atalanta: the Bergamaschi looked unprepared to match Napoli’s aggressiveness in the last fixture and the much-anticipated bout ended with a shocking beating. They will look to return to form in Serie A as well after pummelling Midtjylland. Alejandro Gomez has been the tip of the spear so far and straight-up one of the best players in the League. Luis Muriel has put his name in the stat-sheet twice, like Sam Lemmers, who has made the most of his limited opportunities. Duvan Zapata has been more up-and-down. Josip Ilicic looked rusty in his first game back, but that is understandable: the good news is that he indeed came back and the coach will likely give him regular minutes to get him into shape. Ruslan Malinovskyi is questionable due to an injury, which may lead to some playing time for the intriguing Aleksey Miranchuk. Their stud wing-backs Hans Hateboer and Robin Gosens have scored one goal each, with the German international adding two assists.

Suggested picks: Gomez, Muriel, Zapata. Continue reading