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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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 12

Inter-Verona: while Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku continue to be very reliable, the Beneamata are getting additional pieces back, as Matias Vecino scored in Champions League and Stefano Sensi looked pretty good in his stint off the bench. The two are certainly better fantasy options than Roberto Gagliardini, who filled in while they were sidelined, and the ex Sassuolo player, in particular, was fantastic at the beginning of the season. Valentino Lazaro was okay against Brescia and his skill-set is interesting, especially against the minnows where he would not need to defend a lot. Matteo Politano got hurt in Dortmund, so the first man up off the bench in the attack would be Salvatore Esposito. Verona have scored just nine times so far, so their back-line is certainly in play despite the ongoing clean sheet-less run. Continue reading

Serie A Best Fantasy XI – Round 11

Wojciech Szczesny (7 points): clean sheets were again hard to come by as the defences continue to be ravaged by an overall offensive explosion. Just two goalies managed to stop the opponents and the Polish left in his mark on the Derby della Mole with a great dive on a dangerous attempt in the second half.

Matthijs De Ligt (9 points): he finally contributed positively after struggling in the majority of his first few Serie A games and picked a very timely spot for his first goal in black-and-white. He showed improvements in the back too. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 11

Standings implications: Juventus and Inter continue to churn out Ws despite not looking particular dominant and are running away atop of the standings. The Bianconeri topped Torino in the Derby della Mole, while the Benamata defeated Bologna on the road. Roma, Lazio and Cagliari prevailed in the top matches of the round as La Lupa beat Napoli, the Biancocelesti nipped Milan and the Sardinians upended Atalanta away. Fiorentina-Parma ended in a one-to-one tie. The coach-less Udinese stunned Genoa. Verona kept up the good form with a narrow win over Brescia, while Lecce and Sassuolo shared the spoils in a fun game. Sampdoria came away with three precious points versus SPAL.  Continue reading

Can Inter’s great attacking duo deliver a title to Conte?

With so many teams moving away from a formation featuring two strikers, we are deprived of talking about duos who have great chemistry. In my lifetime I got to witness Maradona and Careca, Skuravy and Aguilera, Trezeguet and Del Piero, Batistuta and Totti and on and on, but it’s been awhile since we’ve been able to enjoy two radically different players complimenting each other as well as Lennon and McCartney.

On a somewhat related note, on Thursday’s Gazzetta dello Sport, Davide Stoppini compared Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku’s goal tally in their first ten matches together at Inter with the nerazzurri’s top scorers this decade- the only duo who surpassed them were Icardi and Perisic who have been shipped off on loan to ensure they wouldn’t taint Conte’s group.

But while raw numbers always give us an objective take on the performances of players within the same era, when it comes to Lautaro and Romelu I have flashbacks to Aldo Serena and Ramon Diaz, the two strikers who led Inter’s brilliant 1988-89 team to the scudetto with Trapattoni on the bench.

While Serena wasn’t as physically imposing as Lukaku (really what striker is?), his specialties were headers and opening space for his teammates, and back in 88-89 he had a perfect partner in Ramon Diaz- a small but very technical striker who arrived at Inter to replace Spillo Altobelli only after Rabah Madjer failed his medical but who only stayed for one season because they had Jurgen Klinsmann waiting in the wings.

While it remains to be seen if Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez can also lead Inter to a title, they have come a long ways to give Conte a guarantee upfront- an even more important development when you consider that Alexis Sanchez is currently rehabbing an injury, leaving them with no choice but to field them almost every game.

Romelu Lukaku was the main protagonist in one of the summer transfer window’s best soap operas since he was also linked to Juventus. He arrived in August after he had already stopped practicing with his Manchester United teammates, he didn’t have much time to get acclamaited to his new team as he prepared to play in a new league, but has already made a major impact by becoming the first Inter player to score 9 goals in his first 11 league matches matching the original Ronaldo’s tally back during the 1997/98 season.

Lukaku has so far lived up to the pressure of being the most expensive purchase in Inter’s history and the most costly transfer from the Premier League to Serie A. While he certainly has felt welcomed by his new manager Antonio Conte, who had tried to sign him at his two previous clubs, he has also had to deal with some ugly racist incidents and the pressure of replacing Inter’s best player of the post treble era in Mauro Icardi.

In many ways Lukaku has been the opposite of Icardi. While he’s been mocked for his first touch in recent years, he has been instrumental in building Inter’s run of play by opening spaces for his teammates and developing great chemistry with Lautaro Martinez, a player that Spalletti didn’t think could play at same time with Icardi because they were too similar. Off the pitch rather than being a distraction, he’s been a great ambassador for the club and a point of reference for his teammates.

Martinez had a fairly successful first season in Serie A despite some fears he could turn into the Argentinian version of Gabigol. He was also a protagonist at the recent Copa America where he developed good chemistry with Leo Messi which raised the expectations for what he could do under Antonio Conte. Martinez has shown he can make a big impact even when he doesn’t score, both with how he contributes to the run of play and by earning (well deserved) penalties in clutch moments. He has developed much more chemistry in just 3 months with Lukaku than he did after a full season with Mauro Icardi.

Can Lukaku and Lautaro do for Conte now what Serena and Diaz did for Trapattoni back in 1989 and help another former Juventus manager win a scudetto under the Madonnina? Both teams could count on great defenses (Zenga, Ferri, Bergomi and Brehme), a dynamic new addition in midfield in Berti and Sensi, the strikers Serena and Diaz scored 34 goals combined, a total Luataro and Lukaku are on pace to exceed, but Inter also had Matthaues in the midfield and while Serie A was stacked back then, this current Juventus will ensure no other team wins with 5 matches to go like Inter did back in 1989- regardless of how it ends, Inter have found a truly special combination upfront.

 

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 11

Roma-Napoli: the Giallorossi have reached a pretty strong level of consistency and they are starting to recovering pieces, which will further add to their arsenal. Edin Dzeko and Aleksandar Kolarov have been terrific all year long, Nicolò Zaniolo has started scoring, Justin Kluivert did damage in Udine and even Javier Pastore is starting to look good playing with continuity. Gianluca Mancini has been a stabilyzing presence, allowing the other contributors to focus more on the offense, primarly Jordan Veretout has begun to be more impactful as a playmaker after a slow start at his new club. Diego Perotti and Cengiz Under will likely need some time before being fit enough to receiving considerable playing time.  Continue reading

Serie A Best XI – Round Ten

Marco Silvestri (7 points): Hellas Verona has been a well-oiled defensive machine so far, conceding the fewest goals out of anybody in the League, even the top dogs. They were one of the only four teams to keep a clean sheet in the midweek round, stymieing Parma, and their goalie gets the nod for everybody.

Aleksandar Kolarov (11 points): after a mini slump, which would have been perfectly normal for any defender but him, he roared back with another successful penalty and setting up the first goal with an outstanding long ball. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round Ten

Standings implications: it took them 96 minutes, but Juventus downed Genoa therefore replied to Inter, which looked tired but withstood Brescia’s assault. Napoli and Atalanta shared the spoiled in the most anticipated match of the round. The Roma teams dominated, with the Giallorossi trashing Udinese away and Lazio doing the same to Torino at the Olimpico Stadium. Cagliari continue to march on and upended Bologna. Fiorentina staged a comeback to defeat Sassuolo. Verona blitzed Parma on the road, while Sampdoria and Lecce tied one-one. Milan have a pulse and squeaked by SPAL. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Ten

Brescia-Inter: Eugenio Corini has had some reservations in using Alfredo Donnarumma and Mario Balotelli together, but Florian Aye, while tactically precious, has not been productive and so the more predictable duo should be the way to go moving forward. However, they have combined for just one goal in the last three matches and they will face one of the best back-lines in the League. Daniele Dessena’s injury ended up hurting Romulo’s fantasy stocks in the short-term, since he is being used as box-to-box, at least until one between Emanuele Ndoj and Jaromir Zmhral manages to unseat Nikolas Spalek, who has not been effective as no.10. Sandro Tonali is coming off his first Serie A goal and constitutes is half of their offense. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round Nine

Standings implications: a weird round results-wise since three of the top four teams shared the spoils against minnows. In chronological order, Juventus could not get past Lecce, Inter equalized against Parma and Napoli did not come up with a game-winner versus SPAL. Atalanta were the only ones to capitalize on the other contenders’ misfortune, demolishing Udinese. Lazio outlasted Fiorentina, while Roma took advantage of Milan’s blunders. Cagliari tied with Torino away, while Bologna and Sassuolo returned to winning ways, sinking Sampdoria and Verona respectively. Genoa bounced back in Thiago Motta’s debut by staging a glorious second-half comeback against Brescia.    Continue reading