What’s been going on at Inter?
On February 16 Inter Milan were 11 points clear at the top of Serie A. Since then, a lot has happened and by the time the champions visit Lazio on Saturday their lead could be down to just one point.
First they lost to Liverpool in their Champions League last 16 first leg when Marco Materazzi was harshly sent off and important centre back Ivan Cordoba was ruled out for the season with ligament damage.
Patchy form and defensive lapses followed, with Javier Zanetti grabbing a late equaliser in a 1-1 home draw with second-placed AS Roma, who went on to beat Real Madrid in the Champions League as their form generally picked up.
Inter were eliminated by Liverpool after losing 1-0 at home and 3-0 on aggregate, a hammer blow to their confidence, so much so that coach Roberto Mancini bizarrely announced after the game he would quit at the end of the season.
Mancini quickly appeared to change his mind, although the suspicion remains that he will leave in June with Italian newspapers packed with speculation of a fall out with club owner Massimo Moratti. Jose Mourinho, Rafa Benitez and Fiorentina coach Cesare Prandelli have all been linked should the job become available.
Quite what the players thought about Mancini’s outburst is unclear, but confidence has continued to be low and last weekend they lost their first home league game of the season against old rivals Juventus.
There are more specific reasons for Inter’s troubles. Luis Figo is well past his best at 35 and has struggled to regain form and fitness following a broken leg in November. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has a knee problem and is gritting his teeth to play one game a week, but his goals have dried up.
Roma’s priority seemed to be the Champions League after their triumph over Real. Suddenly a surprise scudetto is on the cards if Inter do not get their house in order.
Mark Meadows, Milan
PHOTO: Inter Milan’s Marco Materazzi dejectedly leaves the pitch after losing 2-1 at home to Juventus in Serie A, March 22. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini