Lautaro Martinez showed a wry smile as he saw his goal chalked off by VAR for handball. San Siro had erupted when his divine finish looked to have given the home side the lead, in turn offering up images of a new matador. Inter came through the match against SPAL with a well-earned 2-0 victory although it was at a cost. As Roberto Gagliardini and Matteo Politano emerged from the smoke holding the Nerazzurri flag, they looked back on a field of casualties, injuries and suspensions.
Inter are entering into probably their most important week of the season. The Derby Della Madonnina not only will help decide the battle for third place, but is also a continual assessment of two rival projects. A lot has changed in a short period of time and the Rossoneri are now on the march under Gennaro Gattuso’s banner and looking stronger by the minute.
Before this however, the Europa League Round of 16 provides a mouth-watering tie at San Siro. Tied 0-0 after the first leg with Eintracht Frankfurt, the winner of arguably the hardest tie of the round will certainly be amongst the favourites to win the competition.
As it stands, Lautaro Martinez and Kwadwo Asamoah are suspended for the Europa League, whilst Miranda (fractured nose), Radja Nainggolan (calf injury) and Marcelo Brozovic (muscular problem) are out with injury. With several others struggling for fitness, not to mention the fact Dalbert, Roberto Gagliardini and Joao Mario are not on the UEFA list, these ties look even more daunting.
Perhaps what is even worse is that both Frankfurt and Milan have strikers who are lethal and in form, offering a chilling reminder to fans of the Nerazzurri on the importance of a seasoned goal-scorer.
In all competitions this term, Luka Jovic has netted 21 goals in 35 games, including six in nine in the Europa League. The on-loan striker from Benfica has a scoring rate this term that is similar to what Inter expect from Icardi most seasons and there is no doubt he will again be the main threat when the Nerazzurri welcome the Germans to San Siro this week.
Milan’s Krzysztof Piatek scored what was to prove to be the winner against Chievo on Saturday. This was his 19th goal of the season (for Genoa and Milan) moving him level with Cristiano Ronaldo and one behind Fabio Quagliarella.
It is easy to see that if Inter crash out of the Europa League and lose the Derby, Icardi’s absence will be held up being an influential reason for the debacle. To some extent this is true, as he is a major asset to the team, but the continual soap opera that surrounds him is still rumbling on. The amount of ‘back and forth’ that has gone on with this issue could furnish research for a novel and none of it has been professional.
The club have been guilty of allowing this to develop, Icardi and is wife/agent would perhaps admit that they have made errors of judgment in their public game and Luciano Spalletti has never been a dab hand at dealing with the superstar egos in his team. Even the players have been guilty for antagonising the situation.
It is here that Inter’s conundrum lies today. “Mauro wants to stay at Inter, I’m working to make him feel good and make peace with the club. We also chose a lawyer who’s an Inter fan, Mauro wants to continue his career at Inter. We hope everything will be resolved as soon as possible,” Wanda said on live television last night. With this news sounding like a resolution may be in hand, Spalletti could have a decision to make.
Should Mauro Icardi declare himself fit to play, should Luciano Spalletti put him back into the starting XI in the Europa League against Frankfurt or perhaps in the Derby? One can only assume what the mood in the dressing room is, but does necessity outweigh the possibility of harmony? Is it simply an absolute must that he plays if fit? After all, how many dressing rooms have had players who were not even on speaking terms? The answer is many.
Perhaps the timing from the Icardi camp is actually quite Machiavellian, as he has the opportunity to come back and instantly make himself a hero again. Watch this space.