Inter go 11 points clear of Milan with 9 games to go

Surely the Serie A title will be Inter’s now after they pulled 11 points clear at the top. Milan could only draw 1-1 at home to Sampdoria and Inter won at the weekend and then followed that up with their 22nd win of the season on Wednesday evening when they beat Sassuolo 2-1. Inter have won their last 10 games in a row and have simply been fantastic this season- and they will be deserved champions it seems.

Let’s take a recap on Inter’s last 2 games in the league.

This past weekend Inter played Bologna away from home in what is never an easy game for any club in the league. Bologna are in 11th place but have always made it tricky for teams visiting and they did so once again for the champions elect. In the end it took a solo effort from Romelu Lukaku to settle the game just after the half hour mark. Lukaku.

Inter were technically the better side but Bologna had their chances although they did go quieter in the 2nd half. It was Lukaku’s goal that won the game in a 1-0 win and it was Lukaku’s 20th goal of the season as he tries to catch up with Cristiano Ronaldo. It was hardly a vintage performance from Inter, but it’s all about those 3 points and they were able to achieve that at the weekend.

In midweek Inter played Sassuolo this was a game that was originally scheduled a few weeks ago but a Covid outbreak in the Inter side put paid to that and so it had to be carried over. Inter won the game 2-1 through the usual suspects of Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez.

Lukaku opened the scoring after just 10 minutes after a cross by Ashley Young, Lukaku sweetly headed the ball in. It was a first half in which Inter played good football and looked like the better team and they went in 1-0 up at half time.

Inter doubled their lead half way through the second half when Lukaku broke clear and played the ball to Martinez who made no mistake in scoring his 15th league goal of the season. However just before that break Sassuolo really should have been awarded a penalty. Indeed the away side got the better of Inter in the 2nd half and were much the better side and were unlucky to have not at least drawn the game in the end, even though they were able to pull a goal back with five minutes to go.

Inter coach Antonio Conte had this to say after Inter’s latest victory, “We had to become more determined, more focused in every situation, as well as more resilient. There are games like today where we can be up against teams with no pressure and if we are more clinical, we can score five or six goals. Sassuolo kept it open to the end, even if they scored only when Milan Skriniar was off the field. I congratulate Sassuolo, as they came here to play their game and this performance shows how much we’ve grown. With this attitude, we’d still be in the Champions League.”

This weekend Inter will play 18th placed Cagliari at home and will be the favourites to win that one, although the away side are battling relegation, though they haven’t won a game in over 5 weeks.

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Superstar Martinez could be heading for Barcelona as Inter approach Aguero

Name who has been the best player for Inter this season as they try to win their first scudetto in 11 years and most people would say Romelu Lukaku. But Lautaro Martinez wouldn’t be too far behind after a stunning season.

The 23 year old Argentinian has really impressed this season and even last summer he was starting to attract the mega clubs of European football. The fact that Inter should win Serie A this season is spearheaded by Martinez’s fantastic statistics for Antonio Conte’s side.

Martinez has scored 14 league goals so far from 27 games and has 16 overall from 37. He is projected to be the next star of world football when it comes to strikers. One could suggest that Martinez is the type of player that started slow in his career, if we compare him to Kylian Mbappe but Martinez has all of the qualities to become just as good as Mbappe and perhaps even beyond. In short Inter have quite a star on their hands.

It is thought that the likes of Bayern Munich, PSG, Manchester City and Barcelona are very interested in taking the player and one would have to wonder how much for? The pandemic has brought prices down for now, but one would still presume that Martinez’s price tag could be between £100-150m. Can Inter afford not to sell at that price?

Manchester City are on the look out for a striker as veteran forward Sergio Aguero has announced that he will be leaving the club after 10 years playing at the Etihad. Obviously a straight swap is out of the question but City might be able to offer Aguero plus £120m, and that could be tempting for Inter. True Aguero is pushing on for age now but he is still sharp and alert and would score goals in Serie A.

There have been rumours that Inter have been looking at Aguero for his quality and experience although the one drawback is the amount of times he has been injured over the years. Still Aguero leaves the Premier League having scored the most goals ever for an overseas player and that could seal the deal with Inter.

PSG seem to have bottomless pockets and that would be quite a capture for the French champions who could, in effect, over the most money to Inter.

However one would have to suspect that if Martinez was going to leave the San Siro it would be to go to the Camp Nou and link up with his countryman Lionel Messi. Barcelona still want Neymar to return but surely going for youth would be the correct move for the Catalan club.

As for Martinez he may be tempted to stay at Inter and try and deliver the club the Champions League. Ultimately though the final decision will come down to Inter and if big money is offered this will be a huge test for the club who will probably be forced to sell.

As for this season, Serie A took a break for the past 10 days due to the international games. But Inter resume their title challenge away to Bologna on Saturday. Presently Inter are 6 points ahead of 2nd placed Milan and have a game in hand.

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Inter head towards Serie A title without kicking a ball as Juventus stall

Inter did not play at the weekend as their game with Sassuolo had to be called off because of a recent outbreak of Covid-19 within the Inter squad. After tests on Monday it was revealed that Inter now has a clean bill of health but the game had to be postponed as a measure of safety.

There would be good news and bad news for Antonio Conte’s side this week. With no game they could sit back and watch how Milan and Juventus fared, the only two clubs now who could take the Serie A title away from them.

Milan looked like they were going to draw away to Fiorentina but they won 3-2 in a thrilling game and that was the disappointing news of the weekend as Milan are now just six points behind. However of course Inter has an extra game to play. But the great news from Inter’s perspective was that Juventus lost.

It was the Old Lady’s 4th loss of the season and it was a shock as it came at home to Benevento in a game that finished 1-0. Juve had 23 goal attempts and Benevento only had 1 shot on target for the goal the whole game. Media in Italy have said that’s it for Juventus and their title chances and the club has now fallen 10 points behind Inter and played the same games.

The postponement of the Sassuolo game means that Inter will have had a 3 week break until their next game which is against Bologna away from home. Although all of Inter’s players will be involved in the up and coming international matches over the next 10 days or so.

Best performing players for Inter

Let’s take a look at the best performing players for Inter so far as they try to win an historic league title. We will look at the best positions.

Goalkeeper: Samir Handanovic 51 pts

Samir Handanovic has been the regular goal keeper and has started 27 games keeping 10 clean sheets. He has managed to keep clean sheets on 37% of his appearances so far. He is currently the number 1 ranked goalkeeper in Italy and overall ranks in at number 9 over Europe’s major leagues. Three from his last five games has seen the shot stopper keep clean sheets.

Defender: Achraf Hakimi 63pts

Hakimi is 8 points ahead of the next Inter defender Milan Skriniar. Hakimi reminds one of an all round player much like the Real Madrid great and indeed former Inter player Roberto Carlos in that he isn’t afraid to come forward and score goals. His stats are fantastic and Hakimi has been involved in 10 goals in the league so far scoring six times. His value is just 7m and he has been one of the best players in Serie A this season.

Midfielder: Nicolo Barella 38pts

For all of Inter’s greatness this season it has to be said that their midfield talent at least for obtaining points has not been their strongest. Still Nicolo Barella has had great moments this season. He isn’t ahead on the most assists but he has still set up 5 goals and he has also scored a further three. His value is 7m.

Striker: Romelu Lukaku 88pts

Some people will claim that Romelu Lukaku has stiff competition as Inter’s best striker from Lautaro Martinez but that simply isn’t true. While Martinez is a brilliant striker and will get even better at this moment Lukaku is Inter’s number 1 and there can’t be any doubts about that. Lukaku is currently 23 points ahead of Martinez and has scored 5 goals more and has 19 currently. He has also assisted in a further 8 goals and is simply having his best season as a professional player. Lukaku ranks 2nd in Italy behind Cristiano Ronaldo and overall ranks in at 4th. His value is 10.5m.

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Inter take huge step to the title after Martinez heroics and Milan loss

It was game where Inter were clearly the superior side at the weekend, but it was game against Torino away from home that looked destined to finish 0-0. However in the second half the duel opened up and Inter ran out 2-1 winners to record their 9th win in a row and 20th overall this season.

For this game Conte switched to a 3-5-2 packing out the midfield and happy to advance Achraf Hakimi. The usual two were up front in Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez and they would once again repay their coaches’ faith.

The first half ended goalless but was still an entertaining affair and the home side were really forcing the game and controlling the pace. Indeed Inter the champions elect had zero  with 8 shots on target altogether, 4 from each side. Whilst the game was very exciting it did have a feel about it that this wasn’t going to be Inter’s day. The threat was that it could all become quite tense and a match that Inter are very capable of winning could have ended the wrong way. Torino simply were going for the win.

But in the second half everything changed dramatically and Inter were awarded a penalty. Lukaku stepped up to take it and put Inter in the lead but it was a lead that would be short-lived. Antonio Sanabria equalised for the home team just 8 minutes later and looked to have salvaged something from the game with 20 minutes left given of course that Torino are battling relegation this season.

However there would be a final sting in the tail and joy for Inter when Alexis Sanchez who has found form in the past month set up Lautaro Martinez to score what would be the winning goal of the game.

The good news continued for Antonio Conte’s side as 2nd placed Milan lost 1-0 at home to Napoli and so the gap is now 9 points. The threat is seemingly coming from Juventus who are in 3rd place and have 55 points, but a game extra over Inter, win that and they would be 7 points behind.

Fabio Capello predicts the league winners

Italian legend Fabio Capello has predicted who will win Serie A this season and he has chosen Inter. Capello said: “I have been saying it for weeks that Inter have won the championship. I have been saying this since Milan lost against Spezia and I reconfirm it today.”

All at Inter will be keeping quiet about such talk but Capello has spoken, and he is rarely wrong.

Lukaku v Ronaldo

The top goalscorer in Serie A has come down to 2 players now. The boots are off and it is Cristiano Ronaldo v Romelu Lukaku. Ronaldo has finished as top goalscorer in the Premier League and La Liga and he would love to complete a unique treble. Ronaldo was denied last season by Ciro Immobile but the Juventus forward is in the driving seat this season and at the weekend he scored a hat-trick.

Ronaldo has 23 goals so far and Lukaku is 4 behind on 19. Any one of the two really can finish as the top scorer. If Inter win the Scudetto knowing Ronaldo he would take some heart by finishing as top scorer, but with the way Inter score goals who knows who will finish on top? This is how the bookmakers see it.

Cristiano Ronaldo 1/4

Romelu Lukaku 5/2

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Inter stay six points clear of Milan with 19th win of the season against Atalanta

Inter are on course to win their first Serie A title since 2010 after they beat Atalanta on Monday evening to keep the gap between themselves and Milan at 6 points.

Attention was drawn to this game as it was thought to be a tricky one for the league leaders even if they were at home. Atalanta have been impressive in the league for the past 18 months and that form got the club into the Champions League. The game ended just 1-0 to Antonio Conte’s team who had to fight for all three points, but what a huge win it was for the club in the end. Inter are used to sticking 3 goals or more past their opponents but on this occasion they would have been more than happy to get a single goal, collect the points and move on to the next game.

For Inter this victory would be the clubs 8th win in a row and it would be hard fought. The goal eventually arrived 10 minutes into the second half and it was through the most unlikeliest of players in defender Milan Skriniar who pounced on a loose ball in the area to slot home. If not for that this game could have ended 0-0 and that would have been a huge 2 points dropped at home considering that both Milan and Juventus claimed wins at the weekend.

Atalanta had chances to equalise late on and the game was summed up by the fact that Inter’s goal was the only strike on target they had the whole game that is how close and nervous this 90 minutes had been for them. Both Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez were kept quiet by a well organised back four for Atalanta.

For Atalanta they remain in 5th place as they try and chase down a Champions League qualification position. The good news for them is that they are just a point shy of that target with Roma in 4th on 50 points and themselves currently on 49.

Inter have 62 points while Milan have 56 in 2nd and Juventus are in 3rd place with 52 though the champions have a game in hand and could go to 55. The ball is still in Inter’s courts but at this time it remains uncertain if they can pull off what would be a fantastic league title.

Coach Conte had this to say about the game.” Let’s not forget we have the best attack and tonight we played against the second best attack. Beyond the defensive solidity, the right balance has been found. Today, the players recognise the different phases of the game, there are moments in which we choose which type of area to wait and then attack, while then we decide to push higher and change our attitude. We were good at finding the right mix. At the beginning we always went forward, a bit like what Atalanta always does.”

Inter’s next game is away to Torino on Sunday. Milan are at home to Napoli and Juventus will play Cagliari away from home.

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Spinazzola makes amends for error to keep Roma on course for Champions League qualification

It was a week in which Roma realised that they wouldn’t be winning the Serie A title this season despite their earlier efforts in the campaign which had suggested that they could be contenders.

However at the same time no one but Inter looks like claiming the league title now not even 9 time champions Juventus who have themselves slipped 10 points behind Antonio Conte’s side.

For Roma now their objective has to be about qualifying for the Champions League and currently they are just 2 points from that target with Atalanta directly in their way. Roma played two games during this past week one was a defeat and one was a win.

The Giallorossi’s first match was at home to Milan, in 2nd place. It was a game that ended in a 2-1 defeat. By far at least in the 1st half Milan was the superior team, inventive and full of hunger for the win and it was a difficult moment for Paulo Fonseca’s side. However they almost went in at half time at 0-0.

But Roma gave away a penalty after a challenge by Federico Fazio. At first the referee saw nothing in the challenge but VAR did and upon review he changed his mind. Franck Kessie who has been on form for Milan made no mistakes from the spot and Milan went in at half time in the lead.

Just five minutes into the 2nd half however Jordan Veretout made it 1-1. Leonardo Spinazzola assisted for the goal and Veretout shot from the edge of the area. It wasn’t the most powerful shot and 8 times out of ten it would have been stopped, but it made its way through the crowd of defenders and beat the keeper and suddenly Roma, who had not played so well were level.

However Milan would get the final say as just past the hour mark Ante Rebic made it 2-1 with a clean powerful shot from the edge of the area and it was a fine goal. Roma would play better in the second half but the match just went away from them and petered out in the end. It was a bad loss from Roma and they needed to bounce back quickly, and thankfully for them they did.

The match up was against Fiorentina, always a tricky encounter and with Roma losing 2-1 to Milan, they made amends here and won this game by the same score line. The talk of the match though was about Leonardo Spinazzola who scored an own goal but later made amends by scoring for his club and helping them to earn 3 points.

Spinazzola opened the scoring early in the 2nd half but by the hour marked had levelled up the game for the home side. Roma were far the better side and were motivated to win the game but it looked destined to finish as a draw. However Amadou Diawara scored his 1st goal of the season for the club in the 90th minute and what a time to open his scoring account for the club. The players were overjoyed and the game was won.

Roma’s next match is at home to Genoa at the weekend and they will be the odds on favourites to win that. The last time the clubs met at Stadio Olimpico the game finished 3-3 and earlier in the season in the reverse fixture Roma won 3-1. Genoa have not beaten Roma in Serie A since 2014.

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Inter go 7 points clear of champions Juventus with 17th win of the season

Inter look on course to win their first league title in 11 years as they beat Genoa 3-0 at the weekend. Romelu Lukaku yet again was on hand to open up the scoring in a pretty much one sided game that they didn’t look like losing.

Inter got off to the best possible start as they were in front against Genoa within 60 seconds. Lautaro Martinez set up Lukaku who still had plenty of work to do but he lashed his shot into the net, and it was a superb goal to get the game going.

Matteo Darmian and Nicolo Barella had chances to double the lead in the first half and Barella’s chance came off the cross bar. But the first half would end 1-0 to the home side. Inter had dominated the first half and had 7 shots on target to Genoa’s two and they look hungry for more goals too.

Goals did follow in the 2nd half and this time Darmian made no mistakes as he was set up by Lukaku and just past the hour mark it was 2-0 to Inter and there was no coming back from that by the away side.

A few minutes later Alexis Sanchez made it 3-0 and it was game over. Although not before a VAR review but thankfully the goal stood. Inter are 4 points clear at the top after Milan also won at the weekend. But the big news was that Juventus had their game in hand in midweek and they could only draw 1-1 at Verona. They followed that up yesterday by beating Spezia 3-0 but the old lady are now seven points behind Inter and have now played the same games. One has to wonder if Juventus’ domination of the league is over?

Inter’s top scorer Romelu Lukaku had this to say after the game: We faced some defeats in these kind of games last season and we want to improve. I am really happy with the victory. Now we must focus on Parma, it’s not going to be an easy game. We want to show our opponents that we are here. We must focus on one game at a time. It was an important match after two back to back victories. We scored three goals and kept a clean sheet, perfect.”

Pirelli waving goodbye

In other news Pirelli the infamous shirt sponsors of Inter will be no more. With talk of Inter being sold in the summer and negotiations taking place it has been confirmed that the club will have different shirt sponsors from next season. Pirelli has had a strong association with Inter and they have been their official shirt sponsor for the past 27 years.

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Serie A Fantasy Players of the Month in February – Lukaku and Handanovic

A pretty lean month for Serie A players as just one cracked the EuroFantasyLeague of the Month, however it is fitting that the top two contributors come from what is currently the best team in the Peninsula, Inter, which are going on a run and making a strong push in the title race.

Romelu Lukaku and Samir Handanovic both amassed 21 points in the past 31 days, separating themselves from the competition. The big Belgian is in tremendous form and he has found the target four time in the past four matches, adding two assists. Continue reading

Top Three Surprises: Serie A 2020-2021

As is the case any season, Serie A has been chock full of surprises this year, with a number of players breaking onto the scene. Whether it is a budding young talent making a name for himself, or a team punching above their weight, Italian football has not been short on surprising storylines this season.

Without further ado, let’s take a deeper look and break down the most intriguing happenings of what has been a crazy year thus far:

1) Cagliari are…bad? 

When the Sardinian outfit appointed Eusebio Di Francesco this past summer, Cagliari was expected to take the leap in quality. The Italian tactician went into the job with an impressive resume – despite his failures with Roma. His fluid 4-3-3 was supposed to be a perfect fit with Cagliari’s talented roster. Today, the club is on the brink of relegation, sitting five points adrift safety, while Di Francesco has since been sacked.

Cagliari added Diego Godin to its ranks this past summer, adding some much-needed depth at the back. The arrivals of Radja Nainggolan and Daniele Rugani were supposed to steady the ship in January after a rocky start to the campaign, but nothing of the sort has happened.

The club’s only consistent performer remains Joao Pedro, who has led the charge with 11 goals. Giovanni Simeone has struggled for form himself, last finding the back of the net in October. Simply put, a side that boasts their talent – including a midfield three of Nandez, Nainggolan, and Rog – has no business near the relegation zone. If Cagliari cannot turn it around, they might just be the most talented team to go down in recent history.

2) Davide Ballardini might know a thing or two about calcio. 

David Ballardini has regularly been used as a stop-gap option for clubs facing relegation. Naturally, when Genoa had a bumpy start to the new year, the veteran tactician was brought in, kicking off his fourth spell with the club. As was the case in the past, expectations were low.

After all, Genoa’s roster has little quality across the board after notable departures year after year. What has transpired over the last months in Liguria has been nothing short of a total shock. I Grifoni are currently among Italy’s most in-form sides and have since pulled themselves out of the relegation zone.

Led by Ballardini, Genoa has lost just once in their last 10 games and is currently riding a seven-game unbeaten run. After bouncing around calcio’s lower tiers, it appears Ballardini has finally found a place to (temporarily) call home, even if it took him four spells. You can never get too comfortable with Enrico Preziosi at the helm.

3) Is Nicolo Barella Italy’s best midfielder? 

If the past season showed us anything, it is that before this year, Nicolo Barella was severely underappreciated. The Italian international has been the catalyst behind Inter’s title charge, pulling all the right strings in the middle of the park. Operating on the right-hand side of a midfield three, Barella has formed a deadly partnership with Achraf Hakimi and Romelu Lukaku.

The former Cagliari captain has taken his game to the next level, which begs the question: Is he currently Italy’s best midfielder? Marco Verratti might have something to say about that, but the PSG man has never been able to translate his impressive exploits to the national team.

Beyond his great play, Barella has demonstrated he is ready to be a leader, constantly barking out orders on the pitch. Led by a former midfield dynamo in Antonio Conte, Barella has the perfect role model on the sidelines, helping him mould his game accordingly. Is Barella the first name on Roberto Mancini’s team-sheet? I’ll let you decide.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 24 – Late Games

CROTONE-CAGLIARI

Crotone: as expected the Juventus clash proved to be too hard for them to overcome, even though Junior Messias got few shots off and Adam Ounas tried to get something going with his mazing runs. The duo will lead the way again here in a much easier fixture. Messias has bagged seven goals thus far, while Ounas scored on his second appearance with the Squali and will be facing his former team, which did not trust him too much. Samuel Di Carmine has quickly unseated Simy but has not really shined thus far. The coach initially tweaked his system in the past game, but the changes were not that profound. Salvatore Molina returned from a lengthy absence and he was dynamic early in the season (one goal, four assists). Milos Vulic has not made the stat-sheet but he has been very busy over the last couple of matches and could be due. Left-back Arkadiusz Reca (one goal, three helpers) has been one of their most consistent players. Continue reading