Inter must rise to the challenge of facing Juventus

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“We tried to win from the first minute, we had a couple of chances at 0-0. We pushed more in the second half and got the equaliser. A point is an alright result today looking at the other results, we need to keep it up. We create a lot in every match but we have to improve our finishing to finish with as many points as possible. It’s nice to score, especially at home but a goal is always a goal. We know Juventus, they’ve won a lot of titles and they’ll come here to win so we need to prepare well in the week and have the strength to win. We are Inter and we must always play to win because we are strong. First, we’ll think about Juventus and then about finishing the season in third.” Continue reading

Failure to beat Roma a missed opportunity for Inter

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“In terms of the result, nothing has changed. There is one less game to play but, at home, we should always try to win.” Those were the words of Luciano Spalletti during his post-match press conference in the aftermath of Inter’s 1-1 draw against Roma last night. The Giallorossi went ahead within the opening 15 minutes, before Ivan Perišić equalised midway through the second half. Indeed, the Nerazzurri were by far the superior side after the half-time interval and should ultimately have managed to clinch all three points. Continue reading

Borja Valero insists Inter dressing room has always been united

Borja Valero

Borja Valero spoke to the media in the immediate aftermath of last night’s 1-1 draw between Inter and Roma at San Siro. Here is what the veteran Nerazzurri midfielder said during an interview with Sky Sport: Continue reading

Spalletti satisfied by Inter’s second half performance against Roma

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Luciano Spalletti spoke to the media in the aftermath of last night’s 1-1 draw between Inter and Roma at San Siro. The Tuscan tactician was irritated by his side’s lack of control throughout the first half, but was encouraged by what he saw after the interval. He was also full of praise for veteran midfielder Borja Valero, who was excellent throughout the entire 90 minutes. Here is what he said during an interview with Sky Sport: Continue reading

Torino Hang Around and Enter Top Four Race

With much of the attention surrounding the top four race going to Milan, Roma, and Lazio, Walter Mazzarri’s plucky Torino side have flown under the radar, but are still in it with a chance. With just five games to go, I Granata are in seventh place, however, sit just three points back of fourth place Milan. Playing in Mazzarri’s patented 3-5-2 with veteran leadership spread evenly across the pitch, Torino have proven to be one of the harder sides to break down within the peninsula, and hurt the opposition on the break through Andrea Belotti, and Iago Falque.

Torino are undefeated in their last five clashes, and are currently in good form ahead of a crucial stage. Next week, Torino’s top four credentials will be put to the ultimate test when they take on Milan in a direct clash for European football. A win against the struggling rossoneri would put them on equal points awaiting other clashes, and would signal their Champions League intent to the rest of the pack.

While Champions League football is unlikely given that there are five teams vying for one spot, all sides in the top four race have displayed a propensity to shoot themselves in the foot at crucial points. Just this past weekend, Roma, Milan, and Lazio all dropped points in games they should have won. As a result, the likes of Atalanta and Torino have been able to stick around the top four, and have a legitimate chance going into the final match-days.

After taking on Milan, Torino will travel down the street to take on their fierce rivals Juventus at the Allianz Stadium. While the bianconeri have regularly bested Torino over the years, they have already clinched the Scudetto, and will already be thinking of their summer vacation. After his side’s triumph over Fiorentina, Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri admitted himself today that he will try new schemes in the remaining five games. With Juve experimenting, they will likely field a wealth of their youngsters and try to blood them through. This gives Torino a unique opportunity to use their experience, and claim,what would be, a crucial three points to their top four aspirations.

Following their clash with Juve, Torino then close the season against Sassuolo, Empoli, and Lazio. While the first two opponents should be straightforward, it’s their last clash that will determine their fate.

Right now, Torino are spreading responsibility in the final third wonderfully, and don’t simply rely on one player to see them through. In fact, there are seven players on their roster this season with at least three goals or more. This includes defenders, defensive midfielders, wingers and of course, their highly rated talisman Andrea Belotti. Factor in Salvatore Sirigu’s exploits, and it’s clear to see why Torino have been hard to beat this season.

With their side firing on all cylinders, Torino could just be this season’s surprise package in Serie A and snatch Champions League football under from everyone’s noses. Until now, they haven’t received many plaudits for their efforts, but expect that to change if they were to overcome Milan.

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From rejecting Italy to attracting Tottenham, Lazio’s Luiz Felipe is a player on the rise

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A win for Lazio over Udinese in their rearranged Serie A match this week has kept Simone Inzaghi’s side hanging on by their fingernails in the agonisingly tight race for Champions League qualification.

There is much still to play for this season, with a Coppa Italia semi-final second leg against AC Milan approaching next week (the first leg finished 0-0) after a must-win league meeting with relegated Chievo on Saturday.

Lazio’s summer transfer market activity is likely to be dictated largely by how the next month or so plays out; Champions League football would raise expectations and possibilities, no European football at all would have the opposite effect.

That hasn’t stopped speculation from swirling, though, and this week the Daily Mail reported that Tottenham Hotspur have taken an interest in Biancocelesti defender Luiz Felipe.

Vague reports of ‘interest’ from Premier League clubs in Lazio players are nothing new, but it did at least serve to highlight what an eventful season this has been for the young Brazilian who, while yet to emerge as an undisputed first choice or develop into one of Serie A’s best young defenders, has shown plenty of signs that he is capable of doing both.

Born in Colina, near Sao Paulo, on 22 March 1997, Felipe was whisked over to Italy in 2016 after being spotted playing for Brazilian Serie D side Ituano in his home country.

He had barely unpacked his bags before being diverted south to Salernitana, where he spent the 2016/17 season on loan but struggled to break into the team or impress when handed opportunities.

However, Felipe soon benefitted from Inzaghi’s faith in youth as the former Lazio youth team coach brought him into the Aquile first team squad last season, where he made 31 appearances in his first experience of top-flight and Europa League football.

The youngster would’ve been forgiven for looking a bit daunted, or even out of his depth, at being thrust into this elite echelon of football with just seven disappointing games in Serie B on his CV. However, he soon established a reputation as a technically gifted, intelligent defender with great potential.

Felipe appears most comfortable in the centre of Inzaghi’s back three, where he deputised for Stefan De Vrij on occasion last season before doing the same at times for Francesco Acerbi this term – including during Wednesday’s win over Udinese, when Acerbi was shifted out to the left.

The immovable status of De Vrij and subsequently Acerbi meant that Felipe’s chances more regularly came on the right of the three-man defence, the position that has seen the most chopping and changing of all in Inzaghi’s Lazio; Wallace, Bastos, Martin Caceres, Felipe and Patric have all taken turns at being considered first choice in the role.

Felipe himself insisted after the Udinese match that he doesn’t have a preferred position. “I just like playing,” he said. “If it’s in the centre, on the right or left it matters little. There’s no problem, I respect the decision of the coach.”

A quick, agile and smart player, Felipe’s style of defending has had some of the more excitable fans describing him as in the Alessandro Nesta mould. While he still has lightyears to go before being talked of in the same bracket as one of Lazio’s greatest ever defenders, you can understand where the comparison comes from.

Felipe is blessed with instinctive timing and judgement. He is a graceful defender, who has a knack for anticipating the right moment to go off his feet, step forward to intercept a pass or throw himself into a block. He is not a physically dominant bully of a defender by any stretch of the imagination, but looks every inch the modern-day centre-back; a player comfortable with the ball at his feet but who understands the art of defending.

At the start of the season, after his regular involvement last term, hopes were high that Felipe would cement his place in Inzaghi’s team. Injury niggles have interrupted his progress, with the Brazilian twice facing spells on the sidelines, but he has done enough to find himself at the centre of a national team debate.

Luigi Di Biagio called the defender up to the Italy Under-21 squad during the last international break in March, but Felipe soon left the training retreat after reflecting on his situation and deciding he would prefer to represent Brazil. You can’t fault his ambition.

“It was a difficult choice because Italy is also a great national team, but football is about the heart and my desire is to play for the Selecao,” he said.

“I didn’t accept because I want to continue to follow the dream I’ve had since I was a child, to wear the green and gold shirt. I will continue to work to improve every day, to make this desire a reality.”

The Brazilian Olympic team appears to be a more realistic prospect for Felipe at this stage, with the Tokyo Olympics coming up next year, but everything depends on whether the youngster can nail down a regular place in Inzaghi’s team and finally make the right centre-back spot his own.

There will certainly be defensive changes at the club this summer, regardless of their final position in the table. Dusan Basta is leaving at the end of his contract, Jordan Lukaku looks destined to follow, while Wallace is widely reported to be heading out and the likes of Bastos or Patric could realistically depart if a suitable offer arrives.

As for Felipe, he is seen as one of the great young hopes of this Lazio side and is in a good place to achieve his goal of representing his country, repaying the faith shown in him by Inzaghi in the process.

He may not be Nesta, but the Brazilian possesses the tools to make real waves in a Lazio shirt. It’s now up to him to prove that his hopes of pulling on a green and gold shirt aren’t farfetched.

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Spalletti expecting a big performance from Inter vs. Roma

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Luciano Spalletti held his traditional pre-match press conference ahead of tomorrow night’s crucial Serie A match against Roma. Here is what he said to the journalists who gathered at the Suning Training Centre earlier this afternoon: Continue reading

Škriniar insists Inter deserve to be considered among the best

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During an interview with Sky Sport, Inter central defender Milan Škriniar spoke about a variety of issues including this weekend’s crucial Serie A match against Roma and his blossoming partnership with Stefan de Vrij at the heart of the Nerazzurri defence. Here is what he had to say: Continue reading

Gagliardini urges Inter to remain focused against Roma

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During an interview with Inter TV, Roberto Gagliardini looked ahead to Saturday’s crucial Serie A match against Roma as the Nerazzurri look to secure a place in next season’s UEFA Champions League group stage. Here is what he had to say: Continue reading

Lazio Face Top Four Setback Following Milan Defeat

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After narrowly succumbing to Milan by a score of 1-0 on the weekend, Lazio find themselves languishing in eighth place, six points back of fourth place; albeit with a game in hand. The good news is that they’re still very much in the race for top four. Unfortunately for them, however, so are the other five teams alongside them.

Lazio went into the game in relatively poor form dropping points against SPAL and Sassuolo prior, yet only found themselves three points adrift Milan. Against the rossoneri, Inzaghi’s men started relatively well and were unlucky not to find the back of the net first, with Ciro Immobile hitting the post. As fate would have it, Milan were awarded a penalty with just over ten minutes to play, and Ivorian midfielder Franck Kessie converted it with aplomb.

With just over seven games left, and with only six points separating fourth place from eighth, the race for Champions League football has never been closer. As a result, the biancocelesti are going to have to win out their remaining games, if they want a chance. In their next clash, they’ll be taking on a relegation threatened Udinese, a clash that will be harder than the table suggests.

Following the game with Udinese, Inzaghi’s men then have Sampdoria, Atalanta, and Cagliari on the agenda. While Lazio will be the favourites with the odds-makers for these clashes, it is typically in these types of games that Inzaghi’s men struggle. Moreover, Sampdoria and Atalanta have proven they can go toe-to-toe with just about any side in Italy, and will prove to be an equal match for Lazio. After all, there’s a reason these sides are still alive in the race for European football this late in the season.

In the past, Serie A’s provinciali have been Lazio’s bogey sides, and were a major reason behind their failed qualification to last season’s Champions League. If they win their game in hand, Lazio join Roma, and Atalanta in the pack behind Milan, and are in it with a chance. If they don’t, they might as well forget top four altogether.

With Roma experiencing a resurgence of sorts under Claudio Ranieri’s guidance, it will be important for Lazio to exhibit consistency in order to pip their fierce rivals to Champions League football. Roma, however, still have to take on Inter, and Juventus and will be travelling to the Stadio Luigi Ferrari to take on Genoa, which is never easy. Then, of course, there’s Milan.

While the rossoneri had shown signs of slowing down in recent weeks, dropping points against Inter, Sampdoria, Udinese and Juventus in their last four, their win against Lazio will undoubtedly spur them on. With clashes coming up against Parma, Torino and Bologna, there’s no reason why Milan shouldn’t pick up, at the very least, seven points out of their next nine, and continue their march for top four football. Their fate is very much in their own hands.

Lazio’s focus should be on overtaking Milan and Roma, however, they shouldn’t forget about Atalanta either. Even if they win their game in hand, gli Orobici will still have one point more than Lazio. As a result, they must beat them in their head-to-head game on May 5, and win out. Luckily for Lazio, Atalanta have one of the most difficult run-ins taking on Napoli, and Juventus.

While Lazio’s game in hand still gives them hope for top four football, they will have to be at their very best over the next couple of weeks, otherwise they can forget about top four football. Factor in their semi-final clash in the Coppa Italia against Milan, and their schedule is complicated further. In any case, Inzaghi’s men will be hungry to return Champions League football to the nation’s capital; something that hasn’t been done in over a decade at Lazio.

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