Will Lautaro Martinez be a success at the Camp Nou?

Lionel Messi has labelled Lautaro Martinez a ‘complete’ forward, and the Barcelona icon has spoken of his desire to link up with his fellow Argentine at the Camp Nou next season. Martinez’s agent has added further fuel to the fire by claiming that there is a ‘very big possibility’ of the 22-year old completing his move to Catalonia this summer.

Although the young striker has enjoyed a fruitful campaign in Serie A, big things are expected of the Bahia Blanca-born star. Can he live up to the hype?

Inter are desperate to keep hold of the forward who has plundered 19 goals in all competitions this season, yet his desire to link up with the six-time Ballon d’Or winner could prove to be decisive. Although a number of top clubs including Manchester United are believed to be circling this summer, Barca are thought to be in pole position, and with the La Liga giants renowned for their possession-based style of football, this is highly likely to play to his strengths.

The Blaugrana have tended to interchange between 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 in recent years, and the former Racing Club striker should relish the chance to integrate himself as part of one of Europe’s most potent strike-forces. Martinez was used sporadically under former Inter boss Luciano Spalletti, who used to prefer Mauro Icardi in the lone striker role. When given the chance to impress, the forward often found himself isolated due to opponents sitting deep. With the wingers tracking back, the front-man was unable to make space for himself, and was often seen drifting in and out of play.

While lower-ranked teams may occasionally deploy similar tactics against Barcelona, it often tends to be a fruitless task with the 26-time Spanish champions usually finding a way to break the tightest of defensive lines.

Lautaro is able to create space for himself, and is extremely comfortable with the ball at his feet, something that is a prerequisite for any potential Barca recruit. Under Antonio Conte, he has been part of a front two alongside Romelu Lukaku in a 3-5-2 formation. This has suited him well due to defenders having to share their attention between Lautaro and his strike partner Lukaku. Arguably, the weakest aspect of his game is his aerial ability, but that is unlikely to be a major concern if he gets his move to the Catalan giants.

He is one of a number of Barcelona transfer targets this summer as Quique Setien aims to bolster his side in preparation for the 2020/21 campaign. Martinez is among the most high profile of the potential recruits due to his efficiency at Inter. Strikers are often considered to be more valuable by fans, due to their match-winning ability and the recognition they receive in the media, and the position has been immortalized by a plethora of mid-90s computer games and more recently, online slots. The latter includes Super Striker, a popular NetEnt release which is currently available at all of the best betting and casino sites including 22Bet and Royal Panda.

Known as ‘El Toro’, the front man has a terrific strike-rate and he is likely to get plenty of chances in the Spanish top flight. He’s been compared to Sergio Aguero by former striker Hernan Crespo, and has also enjoyed success on the international stage. He also appears to be improving season-upon-season, and his numbers have increased exponentially since the arrival of Conte. 

Inter are understandably keen to keep hold of their emerging star striker, but the financial return from selling him and the likelihood they receive at least one Barcelona player as part of the deal may change all that leading to the young man’s exit. Martinez is surely looking to capitalize on a super season in Serie A, and the recent evidence suggests that he would be the perfect fit for Setien’s attack-minded side.

Fan Zone: Gregory on Nedved, Buffon, Dybala & more Juve talk

Gregory Caltabanis is an established writer and reporter who covers extensively European football, but what matters for the purposes of this Q&A is Gregory’s unfaltering allegiance to Italian giants Juventus.

Gregory is part of the @FantaCalcioGame team as well! They run the most popular Fantasy Serie A Game, but for now let’s go straight to the Q&A with Gregory offering lots of interesting takes on legends such as Pavel Nedved and Gianluigi Buffon.

1) Who are your 3 all-time favorite Juve players (ranked by preference) and why?

Pavel Nedved: My all-time favorite Juve player is undoubtedly Nedved. One of the first games I saw as a kid was Juve against Milan in 2005 and all I remember seeing was a player with blonde locks run effortlessly down the left wing. Of course, it was Nedved. From that point forward, I always watched Juve and became a fan. The rest is history.

Gianluigi Buffon: After Nedved, I would have to say it’s Buffon. Buffon has been with the team since I’ve followed them and is the main reason I’m a goalkeeper to this day. Beyond saving countless goals, he’s a class act both on and off the field. I’ll never forget his save on Zidane’s header in 2006.

Paulo Dybala: The last one is a bit difficult, but I have to go with Dybala. I know he’s not up there yet with Alessandro Del Piero and other legends, but Dybala is one of the reasons I’m still passionate about the team today. He’s always respected the shirt and is arguably the first worthy number 10 we’ve had since Del Piero. I hope he stays with Juve for the long haul.

2) From active players, pick your favorite Juve player by position: one each from defense, midfield and attack. Why did you pick them?

DEF: My favorite defender is 100% Merih Demiral (Gregory says it emphatically!). Since he’s joined, I always thought he would be very important for our success. It’s a shame the serious injury halted his progress, but I’m confident he’ll come back stronger. Demiral embodies everything that Juve should seek in a player. He’s confident, plays with an edge and has that fighting spirit. I’ll be ordering my Demiral jersey very soon.

MID: It has to be Rodrigo Bentancur. I’ve had my doubts about him over the years, but he’s stepped up this season and looks to be evolving into an important player for us. Like Demiral, he plays with an edge to his game which I feel we lack sometimes. I’m looking forward to seeing him make further progress when play hopefully resumes.

STR: It’s an obvious one- Paulo Dybala. You really get the sense that he loves Juve and fights for the shirt every time he steps onto the pitch. It goes without saying, but his left foot is incredible. It’s just amazing to watch him play. Now, if only Fabio Paratici shared the same opinion, we’d be better off.

3) Your choice for most important Juve victory in your lifetime? Why?

Without a doubt, when we knocked out Real Madrid 3-2 on aggregate in 2015. While the win against Inter in 2018 was huge, for me the Real result announced Juve’s return on the world stage and showed the rest of Europe “we are back.” After all, we just took out Real Madrid. The final didn’t go our way, but I can’t recall a win I’ve celebrated more.

4) Choose your all-time favorite Juve match, and why?

Against Inter and on their home turf just over two years ago. At times, it felt like the game and the title were slipping away but as soon as Dybala stepped onto the pitch, it changed everything. I’ll never forget Gonzalo Higuain’s goal to complete the comeback. Made it that much sweeter that it was against Inter at the San Siro.

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5) Where do you rank Sarri among the current generation of Italian coaches? How about among coaches worldwide?

I’d put him in the top five, but I wouldn’t rank him in the top tier of Italian managers at the moment. Conte is in a class of his own, in my opinion. Other than last year, I’d put Allegri in the same tier as Conte. Beyond them, I rate Gasperini highly but it would be interesting to see how he does outside of Atalanta.

Worldwide, I think he’s a top ten manager. If I had to rank them, I’d say this is my top ten: Klopp, Guardiola, Simeone, Conte, Zidane, Allegri, Nagelsmann, Sarri, Tuchel, Gasperini.

6) What’s Juve’s objective for this season? Is it Serie A, the Champions League, or both?

Definitely both. When you have Cristiano Ronaldo on your team, the objective always has to be the Champions League. While I don’t think the team is well equipped for a deep European run, a player like Ronaldo can make the difference in a big game. It would be a waste of his final years if Juve didn’t push for European glory.

7) Perhaps a tough one here but pick two from Marchisio, Pirlo, Pogba, and Vidal for your midfield, and why?

I love Marchisio and it’ll be hard to leave him out, but I have to go with Pirlo and Vidal. Pirlo is the ultimate Regista and is needed to dictate play. Obviously, it helps he can score a free-kick from just about any angle. As for Vidal, he’s your classic box-to-box midfielder and is not afraid to jump into tackles. Few midfielders impressed me more than prime Vidal and let’s not forget, he could score, too. Juve’s current midfield is really lacking his type of profile.

8) Where are Juve’s weaknesses? Some say right-back, others say left-back, or many mention the midfield. Your take?

It has to be the midfield. This may anger some, but Miralem Pjanic is a complete liability both in and out of possession. Juve can do much better in his position and I think they’ll look to replace him this summer. Blaise Matuidi is necessary to press and offer defensive support, but ultimately he’s far too limited. Remember his turnover against Napoli?

I think this Juve side needs at least two signings in the middle of the park and should arguably offload two or three guys (Sami Khedira, Pjanic and perhaps Adrien Rabiot) As I said before, this midfield lacks fight and demonstrates zero Grinta.

Of course, our depth at full-back is worrisome particularly with Alex Sandro slowing down, but for now, I think Sandro and Juan Cuadrado can manage the situation. Hopefully, Pellegrini comes back in the summer and competes for the left-back position.

9) In your opinion who is the best player (not necessarily your favorite) to ever wear the Juve shirt?

It has to be Del Piero. Record goalscorer and record appearance holder, few match Del Piero’s resume with the club. He’s won it all with us and has inspired many to support Juve over the years. At the height of Italian football, he was one of the best and led Juve to many trophies.

Del Piero set the standard for our number ten jersey and raised the bar for everyone after him. Perhaps Buffon is in it with a shout, but I have to give this one to Pinturicchio.

Fan Zone: Alberto returns to discuss Sarri, Higuain, the market and more!

In the second part of our Q&A, Alberto- you can follow him here @alljuvecast- discusses Juve’s weaknesses, coach Maurizio Sarri, Gonzalo Higuain and a few other topics! Without wasting more time. Here goes:  Continue reading

Coronavirus Outbreak Nullifies Home-Field Advantage

The 237th instalment of the Derby d’Italia will be a defining moment in the season for both sides. On one hand, Inter desperately needs the three points to maintain the pace with Lazio and Juve at the top, while the bianconeri, by contrast, would like to keep Antonio Conte’s men at arm’s length. After all, a win against their fierce rivals would extend their lead to nine over the nerazzurri, with just one game in hand. With Lazio in fine form, three points are of paramount importance for Sarri’s men ahead of their crucial Champions League return leg against Lyon.

The game was initially set to be played last week in Turin, in front of their usual 40,000 spectators. With former Juventus captain Antonio Conte returning as an opponent for the first time since switching allegiances, the Allianz Stadium promised to be hostile. Many fans have even petitioned for Conte’s star to be removed at the Allianz Stadium after he joined Inter.

However, with the coronavirus spreading across the nation, the Italian Government ruled that all sporting events until April 3 would need to be played behind closed doors. As a result, Conte and Marotta will have to wait until next season to receive their “warm” welcomes.

While the game promises to be an evenly-matched tilt, the ruling puts Inter at a slight advantage. For one, the deafening home crowd won’t be present to distract them and they’ll be able to lock in like never before. On the other hand, Conte excels at motivating his men for one-off battles as we have seen throughout his young managerial career and will benefit from the relatively quiet, empty stadium. There may not be fans present, but one thing’s for sure: Conte’s voice will be heard, whereas Sarri is far more observant on the touchline.

In a game like this, Conte gets the advantage and will likely be motivating his men full throttle. With everything on the line tomorrow, expect Inter to come out firing from all cylinders. The stadium ban is an unprecedented situation that nullifies Juve’s home advantage, and Inter will be looking to fully capitalize on it.

For Sarri, the challenge is unique. After seeing his side underperform after the new year, Juve have fallen behind in the title race for the first time. Simply put, a reaction is needed or they may be in for a rough finish to the end of the season. Juve may have the game in hand on Lazio, but the biancocelesti have been in sensational form and have shown no signs of stopping. In many ways, they’ve been the best side in Italy this past season. Anything but a win against Inter and Juventus will find themselves in second place by tomorrow night; a worrying prospect indeed.

With Inzaghi’s men focusing solely on the league, it will be quite the uphill battle to climb if they fall behind, especially with no fans to support them. Factor in Juventus’ narrow deficit in the Champions League and the bianconeri’s minds may just be on their European exploits.

On the bright side, the last week has allowed Sarri’s men to regain energy and rest ahead of a crucial stretch. Due to injuries and a lack of depth in key areas, a majority of Juventus’ squad needed this.

No matter which way you put it, tomorrow’s derby d’Italia will be an awkward affair. The contrast of having massive title implications but no fans present make it so, there’s no way around it. While Sarri will be eager to prove he’s the right man for the job after coming under fire, Conte and his men are more than happy to play spoiler and throw their name in the hat for the Scudetto. For now, it’s advantage Conte.

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Three Things to Look Out For in the Derby Della Madonnina

With Inter and Milan locking horns in the latest instalment of the Derby Della Madonnina in match-day 23, both sides will be going in with differing objectives.

On one hand, Antonio Conte’s men, the official ‘anti-Juve’, will be looking to keep pace at the top with the Italian champions while the rossoneri will be eager to close down a seven-point gap between them and top four.

While earlier in the season it looked like Milan would be in for another indifferent year, Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s arrival has coincided with a return to form. Since their 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Atalanta, Pioli’s men are unbeaten in their last seven in all competitions. Inter, by contrast, have struggled since the turn of the new year and have drawn three of their last four Serie A clashes.

Here are three things to look out for on Sunday!

1) Midfield battle – Conte’s 3-5-2 vs. Pioli’s 4-4-2. 

Since assuming the reins, Pioli has implemented a basic 4-4-2 formation and is slowly getting the most from some of the club’s misfiring players, including Ante Rebić and Samu Castillejo. While the results have been there, Milan, at times, have been overrun in the midfield as Pioli’s 4-4-2 is rather flat. Against Brescia, for example, Milan were left exposed and were lucky to walk away with all three points.

As has been the case since he’s coached Juve, Conte tends to load up the middle with three midfielders, one regista and two mezz’ale, who tend to do most of the running and offer defensive cover between the lines. In possession, these interior midfielders like to sit in half-spaces in the final third to receive the ball in dangerous areas.

Christian Eriksen’s arrival will only help in this respect and the Danish international will be licking his lips at the prospect of carving open the rossoneri’s rearguard. If Milan are to have a shot in this game, Pioli will need to alter his tactical setup and ensure Inter don’t gain numerical superiority in the middle of the park all-while keeping a particular focus on Eriksen who will likely be fielded right behind both strikers.

2) Christian Eriksen – 3-5-2 or 3-4-1-2? Trequartista or mezz’ala? 

The worst-kept secret of the January mercato was Eriksen’s transfer to Inter, but after weeks of rumors, it finally got done. Now that he’s with the nerazzurri, however, question marks remain over where he will feature. In his first appearances with the club, Conte has altered his preferred 3-5-2 for a more fluid 3-4-1-2 with Eriksen occupying the trequartista role behind the strikers.

In the past, Conte has been reluctant to shift away from his rigid shape and typically perservered with his tried-and-tested 3-5-2. When he had Pirlo, Vidal, Marchisio and Pogba at Juve, it was the Frenchman who, at times, featured higher up the pitch in a 3-5-1-1. While it’s unlikely he does that with Eriksen, it remains a possibility.

The Derby della Madonnina will be the first real test for an Eriksen-led Inter and it will be interesting if Conte persists with him in an advanced role. After all, a mezz’ala role doesn’t exactly suit the former Tottenham man and isn’t why he was signed. With a big three points up for grabs, Eriksen is definitely one to watch.

3) Ibrahimovic-Leao face their first real test. 

Since Ibrahimovic’s arrival, the big Swede has formed an effective partnership with Rafael Leão and the duo have established themselves as Pioli’s undisputed front-two. With the former PSG man holding up play, Leão plays in a support role and makes the most of his turn of pace and ability to take on his man. Until now, Milan have had success with the Leão-Ibra partnership, but they have yet to be put to the test by an elite defence.

Taking nothing away from their opponents, Milan have played Cagliari, SPAL, Udinese, Brescia, Torino, and Verona. While each side represents their own challenges, none of them, bar Verona, come close to Inter when it comes to defensive solidity. It will be interesting to see the Ibra-Leão partnership go to work against Conte’s back-three in what is undoubtedly their first real test since coming to be.

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Inter Reinforcing Ahead Of Scudetto Push

Before the season started, many expected Inter to challenge Juventus for the Scudetto, but few foresaw the nerazzurri going toe-to-toe with the Italian champions like this. After seventeen match-days just eight goals and their head-to-head encounter separates the two at the top of the table. Since his arrival, Antonio Conte has already imprinted a clear identity at the San Siro, something that was lacking for years at the club.

Along with his trade-mark 3-5-2 and defensive solidity, the former Chelsea tactician has ensured his Inter side are among the toughest to break down in the peninsula. However, their lack of squad depth has been pegged as the defining factor in their title bid. As a result, Inter sporting director Giuseppe Marotta appears to be dipping into their war-chest and taking to the January mercato aggressively.

Reports suggest that former Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal is on his way to the club, but Inter will reportedly not stop there. In recent times, they have also been linked with Napoli’s Faouzi Ghoulam, Marcos Alonso, Olivier Giroud and Marcos Acuna among many other names, highlighting clearly Inter’s intent. While their list of targets grows as the mercato is set to open, Inter’s needs are clear: Midfield depth, another wing-back to compete with Asamoah and Biraghi, and a striker to provide Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez with some much-needed rest. Alexis Sanchez is also expected to return to action shortly, giving Conte another weapon in the final third. Beyond bolstering the side in key areas, Inter’s reported winter activity highlights one thing clearly: The title is there for the taking this season and they’re going for it.

When Nicolo Barella and Stefano Sensi went down injured, Conte’s men struggled to create chances and Inter barely overcame their opponents in tight affairs. Recognizing this, Inter loosened their purse strings. That’s where the experience of Vidal comes into play. Despite being on the wrong side of 30, the Chilean remains one of football’s elite box-to-box midfielders and will add some valuable experience in the middle of the park, in what is a relatively young midfield trio.

Up front, Lukaku and Martinez deserve a break. Up until now, the former Manchester United man has featured in all of Inter’s 17 Serie A clashes while his Argentine counterpart has appeared in 16 of the nerazzurri’s domestic affairs. While Sanchez’s injury complicated things, Conte will be eager to add another forward to his offensive ranks. Given he’s already familiar with Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud, the Frenchman’s arrival makes perfect sense. The former Arsenal man still has plenty to offer as a link-up man in the final third and could form quite the partnership with any of the nerazzurri’s front-men.

While adding another fullback is a luxury more than a necessity given Inter’s depth out wide, it demonstrates Conte and Marotta won’t stop until they’ve built a comprehensive side capable of competing on multiple fronts. With the title race likely going down to the wire this season for the first time in years, Inter are reinforcing significantly and won’t go down without a fight. Brace yourselves, we’ve got a title race.

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Can Inter Milan upset Juventus and win their first Serie A title in 10 years?

No Inter Milan fan even in their worst nightmares could have predicted the fall of the club after Jose Mourinho upped his sticks and left the club in the summer of 2010 for Real Madrid. Now they are dreaming again almost a decade later.

Back in 2010 Inter under Mourinho’s infamous dogs of war and arguably his most successful period as a football coach not only won the league title but also completed for the first time in Italian football history the triple. That is the league title (Scudetto), the Italian cup and the creme of them all the Champions League. Indeed it was Inter’s first triumph in Europe since 1965. It all felt like a dream, but it was reality. Not only were Inter the champions of Italy but the champions of Europe.

Inter had finally stepped out of AC Milan and Juventus’ shadow as a club to be reckoned with and then Mourinho left and rather quickly Inter’s fortunes disappeared. It was as if by reaching the top of the mountain the only way was down. To add salt into the wounds Milan their eternal nemesis would win the league the following the year.

Since then countless coaches have come and gone and whilst Inter have always been there and thereabouts they have never looked like recapturing that glory at least domestically until this season. It has been a decade dominated by Juventus and their 8 in a row titles.

This season Inter have started superbly, losing just one game so far in Serie A inevitably to Juventus and the grand old lady remain their biggest obstacle to picking up their first title in what will be 10 years. But can Inter do it?

With the international break upon us Inter are just one point behind Juventus with 31 and that has been achieved out of a maximum points total of 36. In short in most seasons Inter would be in 1st place with a healthy lead. But there looms always the threat of Juventus.

Inter have a 7 point lead over 3rd place Lazio which is massive and Inter should be able to finish at least 2nd this season. But only winning the league will do and this team does have the tools to do it. Headed by Romelu Lukaku the Belgian has found a new lease of life after going a little stale at his former club Manchester United and he has already scored 9 goals this season. Even the great Cristiano Ronaldo only has 5 so far for Juve.

But Inter also have quality in their ranks such as Stefano Sensi who has already scored 3 goals from midfield and assisted in another two. In Antonio Conte Inter have a very successful coach the one who masterminded so many Juventus league titles, everything looks in place.

Can Inter go that extra mile and stop another Juventus win? This title looks like it will go down to the wire which, if anything, will be great for Italian football rather than the normal procession.

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Ranking the reasons to be optimistic about Inter

It’s only been five games and they had a fairly easy schedule to start the season, but no matter which caveat you want to add, there’s no doubt Inter couldn’t have had a better start to the season in Serie A. In addition to the results on the pitch, cross town rivals Milan are in a full blown crisis, Napoli suffered a deflating home loss to Napoli and Juventus has shown some cracks in their armor.

But can Inter sustain this success? Let’s rank the reasons why it’s likely they will:

 

Singular focus on Serie A

The home draw to Slavia Prague in the Champions League, the easiest match of the group stage is either part of the plan to “pull a Napoli and punt the Champions League” or a potential blessing in disguise to give Conte’s squad a better chance at a deep scudetto run. Should Inter be eliminated early in the group stage, they can put all their eggs in the Serie A basket earlier into the season.

 

Team can improve thanks to Valentino Lazaro and Alexis Sanchez

So far Inter have received a significant boost from their new additions. Stefano Sensi is arguably so far the most impactful new player on any Serie A team, Barella is living up to the hype of his substantial transfer fee after being eased into the starting lineup slowly, Lukaku has been decisive even when he doesn’t score, Godin has shown why he’s considered one of the best defenders of his generation and Biraghi played well in his first start against Lazio.

In the coming weeks we could see Valentino Lazaro get into the right wing back rotation and Alexis Sanchez will try to regain his Arsenal (or Udinese form) while giving a breather to the starting strikers. Lazaro was a fairly significant investment for the club, so look for Conte to try to turn him into his new Victor Moses, while Sanchez is a great low risk/high reward investment.

 

Depth

Lazaro and Sanchez will bring more depth to a team that has already had to use some of its backups this season. D’Ambrosio has played as a center back and rotated with Candreva on the right wing, Asamoah and Biraghi are both starting caliber players at left wing back, while Vecino has limitations as a player his physicality and nasty streak make him a good compliment to Sensi, Barella and Brozovic 

Politano can be a deluxe version of one of Conte’s favorite players Emanuele Giaccherini. The former Sassuolo winger has a knack for making an impact off the bench and he can play in multiple roles in Inter’s current formation. Even much maligned Ranocchia was useful at the start of the season while both De Vrij and Godin nursed injuries. 

 

Conte and Marotta

Inter has won countless August and September scudetti in recent years. They are often called the winners of the summer transfer windows and/or get off to a fast start only to collapse in epic fashion before the season even gets to its second half. But because of the changes at the top, there’s ample reason to believe things will be different.

Beppe Marotta brought a Juventus like business approach to Inter. Rather than coddling Mauro Icardi last season, he was publicly stripped of the captain’s armband and was shipped out of town along with Nainggolan and Perisic, two players who also brought numerous distractions. Marotta hasn’t been afraid to speak publicly during difficult moments (maybe something Milan’s current directors can learn from) and has taken the pressure off Conte by handling tough situations head on.

Marotta built a team in Conte’s image and now the former Juventus and Chelsea manager is in the conditions to succeed, the focus is on the group of players rather than individual stars and there’s plenty of quality through out the squad. 

In recent years I’ve described Conte as the type of manager that takes a team from A to B- someone you want to take over when your club has hit rock bottom. It will be interesting to see if he can now take the foundation Spalletti built to the next level- after his recent experiences, odds are he will. One thing that Conte has clearly already improved Inter on is defeating provinciali types- in recent years, the nerazzurri squandered numerous points against the bottom table teams and so far have won those matches convincingly. 

 

Defense

While Serie A is certainly no longer a league focused on catenaccio, the old adage that offense wins game and defense wins championships is often still true. Last season Inter had the most clean sheets in Serie A and they added a blue chip player in Diego Godin to fortify a strength, Handanovic has continued to look brilliant this season- particularly in the match against Lazio- and both D’Ambrosio and Ranocchia have responded well when called upon. Conte will also likely ease in Alessandro Bastoni in his center back rotation after his positive season on loan at Parma.

 

Marotta and Conte Propelling Inter Forward With A Clear Vision

When Giuseppe Marotta was appointed as Inter’s sporting director after an abrupt departure from Juventus, the nerazzurri sent a clear message of intent to the rest of the league.

Rather than being satisfied with vying for a place in the top four, Inter wanted to emerge as contenders once more. Gone are the days of Pazza Inter and they have since been replaced with stability and a particular focus on the team rather than the individual. Marotta’s track record is impressive within Italy, and he played a major role in Juventus’ ascent back to the top of Italian and European football.

However, much of this success couldn’t have been achieved without the initial groundwork laid down by Antonio Conte in 2011. In the tactician’s first season, Juve’s roster was nowhere near what it is today, and frankly was inferior to Massimiliano Allegri’s Milan that they were up against. Instilling this belief of ‘us v them’ and bringing back a sense of accountability to the side, Juventus won their first Scudetto in years against all the odds.

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To this day, It remains a mystery how the bianconeri would finish that season undefeated with the likes of Alessandro Matri and Mirko Vucinic leading the line and Paolo De Ceglie featuring regularly. At the same time, however, Juve’s success with limited resources was a testament to Conte’s great work.

Now reunited with Marotta at Inter, expect no less from the veteran tactician. The duo have been together in Milan for a mere couple of months and have already banished notorious bad apples, Mauro Icardi and Radja Nainggolan from the club.

As per Bleacher Report, Marotta proclaimed neither player had a spot in Conte’s team. “Talent can win you games, but the squad wins you the league, which is the main objective we are setting out for,” said Marotta. “They are not part of our project, with all due respect.”

While both Icardi and Nainggolan have been among Inter’s top performers and are a major reason behind their recent Champions League qualification, their exclusions show that Conte and Marotta are ready to build a true team rather than a collection of talented individuals; something that the Inter brass have struggled with in the past. If the nerazzurri’s summer activity is anything to go by, you can already see the duo’s work slowly being put into place.

Much like it was the case at Juventus, Marotta turned to a free transfer to shore up a squad need, and brought in Diego Godin from Atletico Madrid. The Uruguayan is among the best defenders in the world and will fit like a glove in Conte’s back three alongside Milan Skriniar and Stefan de Vrij. In many ways, this is Inter’s version of Juventus’ BBC, albeit with way more to prove.

Diego Godin

Outside of defence, Inter have secured Italian internationals Nicolo Barella and Stefano Sensi for their midfield. Both players are the archetypal Conte midfielders and possess the qualities the former Chelsea tactician demands. Determined, technical and team-oriented. In Inter’s new-look midfield, Barella will act as a mezz’ala (#8) making late runs into the box much like Marchisio did at Juve while Sensi will be used as the side’s regista. In this role, the former Sassuolo man will be able to make the most of his range of passing and in many ways, will be a poor man’s Andrea Pirlo for Conte.

Realizing that centre midfield wasn’t their only need, Marotta quickly concluded a deal for Valentino Lazaro. At just 23 years old, the fullback has demonstrated he’s a hard worker and is the prototypical two-way player. Lazaro will be a much welcomed addition down the right-hand side; think Stephan Lichtsteiner but with more upside and end-product.

To round off Conte’s 3-5-2, he has requested Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku. While the Belgian has blown hot and cold for the Red Devils, finding the back of the net has never been an issue for the former Chelsea man. With his towering physique and keen eye for goal, expect the 26-year-old to slot in wonderfully alongside Lautaro Martinez. Martinez and Lukaku are the typical, hard-working, ‘small-big’ partnership Conte has turned to in the past. Think Vucinic-Giovinco, Tevez-Llorente, Eder-Pelle, and so on and so forth. Inter are reportedly tabling their first bid for the striker shortly and have prioritized the Belgian.

With both Conte and Marotta leaving Juventus on poor terms in their own way, the duo have now reconnected at their fiercest rivals and are well on their way at creating a Juventus 2.0, but this time, in Milano. Banishing drama-kings Icardi and Nainggolan was the first step, followed by the acquisitions of prototypical Conte players. It may not end the same way as the league is much stronger than it was in years past, but one thing’s for sure: Linking up Conte and Marotta is Inter’s best bet at silverware in nearly a decade.

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A Look At Juventus’ Coaching Candidates

With the future of Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri hanging in the balance after their recent European failure, a number of names have been linked with the bianconero hot seat. As Champions League glory remains the target, it remains to be seen just who president Andrea Agnelli will elect to lead the charge for the upcoming season. Here are the possibilities for the Juventus job.

Pochettino

1) Mauricio Pochettino 

The Tottenham Hotspur manager has done an exceptional job with limited resources throughout his time in London, and has led the English side to their first Champions League final in their history. Win or lose against Liverpool come June 1st, Pochettino has alluded to the fact that his five-year tenure may be coming to an end. Italian media outlets have ran with his comments, and have recently linked him with the Juventus post.

The Argentine tactician has a clear philosophy at all clubs he’s been with, something Juventus have lacked under Allegri this season. However, one stumbling block remains his salary. According to Corriere dello Sport, Pochettino is demanding 20 million euros per season, making it rather difficult for the Italian champions to compete with suitors.

In any case, Pochettino should be Agnelli’s primary target, and would undoubtedly make the most of Juventus’ deep roster. With European glory as their priority, the Argentine may just prove to be exactly what Juventus need.

conte

2) Antonio Conte

Much like Pochettino, former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has been heavily linked with a return to Juventus in recent times. That being said, Sky’s Gianluca Di Marzio recently reported that the former Juventus tactician is extremely close to penning a deal with fierce rivals Inter. Regardless of these reports, Conte, a manager who set the first building blocks for this Juventus side eight years ago, remains a concrete possibility for the job.

A main concern for Agnelli, however, other than the fallout from his abrupt departure, is Conte’s ability to juggle European football along with domestic demands. In the past, the Italian tactician rarely rotated his eleven, and often struggled to replicate his side’s domestic form in Europe, crashing out of the Champions League group stages in disappointing fashion. Despite this, Conte recently came out in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport, and claimed his stints with Chelsea and Italy have made him a better manager in this respect.

Moreover, it’s important to consider that Juventus’ side today are much stronger than Conte’s Juve, which is likely playing a decisive factor in the tactician’s decision to stall talks with Inter for the time being. While a reunion with Marotta at Inter is likely for Conte, don’t be surprised to see the veteran tactician replacing the man who succeeded him come summertime.

Lazio v Salzburg - UEFA Europa League - Quarter Final - First Leg - Stadio Olimpico

3) Allegri v the field

Other than Pochettino and Conte, a number of other managers have been linked with the Juventus job, albeit less seriously. According to recent reports, Agnelli is also weighing up the option of hiring France boss Didier Deschamps. Much like Allegri, the French tactician is pragmatic with his approach, and would represent maintaining the status quo for Juventus.

Otherwise, Simone Inzaghi, Gian Piero Gasperini and Sinisa Mihajlovic have also been linked. The trio are all familiar with Italian football, and all have different merits. Firstly, Gasperini has done fantastic with Atalanta, getting them to their first Coppa Italia final in decades, and is two wins away from Champions League qualification. However, doubts remain over his ability to translate this to a big club, as seen through his past failure with Inter. In addition, there’s no reason why Gasperini should leave Atalanta after leading them to the first Champions League qualification in recent times. After all, Gasperini and gli Orobici are a match-made in heaven.

Inzaghi and Mihajlovic are interesting appointments in their own way, but frankly, are not Juventus calibre, especially if Champions League is the objective. If the bianconeri’s primary options aren’t feasible, Allegri may prove to be the best of the rest.

For the time being, no one really knows which way Agnelli is leaning, and could very well keep Allegri at the helm for the upcoming season. However, if recent reports are anything to go by, the Juventus president will likely be replacing Allegri by season’s end.

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