Friday March 15 2019
Italy's Europa League glass half-empty

Napoli ultimately did what they needed to in the Europa League and Inter, once again, didn’t reach the bare minimum standard, writes Vilizar Yakimov.

Despite Napoli progressing to the quarter-finals, Inter’s exit to Eintracht Frankfurt means that Serie A’s Europa League glass is half-empty once again.

We saw it coming and we can’t really say it was a surprise, can we? Inter put in another dreadful European performance and were deservedly eliminated by Eintracht Frankfurt after suffering a 1-0 defeat at San Siro last night. On the other hand, Napoli lost 3-1 away from home against Salzburg, but still managed to qualify after their 3-0 victory in the first leg.

A home win against a what seems like a beatable opponent - that’s all Inter needed to qualify for the next round of European competition for a second time this season. However, for the second time in a row, the Nerazzurri failed to do that, as they suffered elimination in a way that’s becoming way too common for the club.

The truth is this Inter can slip up against anyone at the moment, as Luciano Spalletti’s men were far too negative in both legs and were completely outplayed by Eintracht. In fact the defeat against the Germans could hardly be called ‘a slip’, as if Samir Handanovic didn’t make the remarkable seven (!) saves, we would’ve been talking about one of the Beneamata’s worst defeats in their recent history history in Europe. But who needs to take the blame for this?

The way the club stripped Mauro Icardi of the captain’s armband mid-season was definitely not the smartest thing they’ve ever done, as Inter still had plenty to play for and were fighting on several fronts. The management should’ve definitely handled the situation better, as the latest episode of the saga came in arguably the worst moment, with the Nerazzurri yet to cement a top four place domestically and aiming at a deep run in the Europa League.

However, it really seems that Inter’s situation is worsening with each week, as Spalletti’s men have won just one of their last five games in all competitions. This resulted in them losing third place to Milan and putting a top four finish under jeopardy as well as last night’s Europa League elimination against Eintracht.

Some might say that a top four finish is Inter’s main goal this term and that the Europa League is not the main focus. But isn’t that a cheap excuse that we hear far too often by many Italian clubs after a disappointing elimination in recent years?

In terms of potential Inter should be amongst the favorites for the whole competition alongside Chelsea, Napoli, Arsenal and Sevilla. However, on the field the Nerazzurri are a long off these teams in terms of intensity, fluidity and overall play, so Spalletti is to be blamed as well.

With the Eintracht defeat coming right before the crucial Derby della Madonnina against Milan on Sunday, it really seems that Inter will be fighting for a top four finish just like last year. Therefore, it’s really hard to find any progress in their performance, despite the fact many tipped them for a top four finish and even a Scudetto push after what seemed at the time a very solid summer transfer window.

As for Napoli, the absence of their three main centre-backs could’ve hardly been more evident in their 3-1 defeat against Salzburg last night. Vlad Chiriches and Sebastiano Luperto were all over the place, so Carlo Ancelotti should be should be grateful that he’ll have Kalidou Koulibaly and Nikola Maksimovic available for the next round. Raul Albiol is currently recovering from a knee surgery, so not expected to play again for quite a few months.

For a moment it seemed like we could have another Italian nightmare in Austria for a second year in a row, as Lazio suffered a 4-1 defeat at the Red Bull Arena and were eliminated despite a relatively comfortable 4-2 win in the first leg.

Napoli’s 3-0 advantage from the first game meant that Salzburg had to put five past Alex Meret after Arkadiusz Milik’s opener, but if the Austrians’ third goal came a bit earlier, that would’ve definitely been possible.

The game showed that Napoli cannot afford to play too defensive and too deep, especially against good teams with European mentality like Salzburg. The Partenopei should try to keep possession and be as aggressive as possible throughout the whole game in order to make the most of their qualities.

With second place in Serie A looking relatively secure, Napoli’s main goal should be the Europa League and while there are hardly any easy opponents left in the competition, the Vesuviani have all it takes to beat anyone.

However, Napoli have won just one away game in Europe all season, so Ancelotti should think about improving his team’s performance on their travels.

Carletto’s remarkable European pedigree can make the difference for the Partenopei in this tournament, but their disappointing defeat and Inter’s embarrassing elimination mean that Serie A’s Europa League glass is half-empty once again.

Have your say...
Other than Juventus, just about every other Italian team shames Serie A year after year. Not sure what's the point of having 4 Serie A teams in CL if they almost never make themselves count.
on the 21st March, 2019 at 4:23pm
a Varsavia, Napoli will do well against Arsenal, who today have just the name, but on the pitch much weaker than Salzburg, who everyone underestimates. If insigne was a leader, or just a good player, how come no club ever wanted seriously to buy him? He is the reason for Napoli’s failure to win the scudetto since Mazzarri left. He was imposed on all coaches since, despite his very average, to dreadful performances in the last 6years, he is untouchable, and who pays for this madness? The best player, MARTENS of course.
on the 19th March, 2019 at 6:20pm
If all the Inter fans r same as Mil_Int, I understand why Inter r bad. Your so called new squad r paper talk and full of rubbish except Skriniar, Handa and maybe Godin and Werner. Also why the latter wanna join a rubbish team?Also where is the money from?Icardi dilemma makes him cheaper than Werner in the market.Where will u get the 50m for Barella?Perisic is no more than 20m on the market,same value as Lazarri. Most of the players r not even qualified 4 juven’s rotation squad.
on the 17th March, 2019 at 9:19am
Inter needs to start over (again) at the end of the season. Spalletti out! Icardi out! Perisic, Nainggolan, Vecino, Miranda, Asamoah and Handanovic out. Conte/Mourinho, Werner, Benassi, Barella Godin, Lazarri and Cragno in with a 3-5-2 formation.

D’Ambrosio De Vrij Godin Skriniar Lazzari
Benassi Brozovic Barella
Lautaro Werner

A classic 4-3-3 is an outdated formation in Italy and its use should be discontinued.

Bring back trequartistas!!
on the 16th March, 2019 at 6:13pm
The Milan's are still not ready for European competition. If you can't move the ball fast with quality and you can't press its better you stay out of Europe all together. Milan should also be careful what they wish for. They were visibly inferior in terms of quality when they played Arsenal in Europe last year, it was really poor. If you get to this competition by just grinding results, you will regret it. This is not Milan's pedigree either or how they won 7 cups.
on the 16th March, 2019 at 4:02am
I think to be fair to Inter, they played terribly but were decimated by injuries and suspensions. This just highlights the lack of strength in depth and the promise of the summer signings has just not shown (apart from Martinez). Add that to Spalletti's poor tactics and it's no surprise the play has been awful to watch.
We need a new coach in the summer or at least ensure that Spalletti brings in some decent players. Then he will have no more excuses for failure.
on the 15th March, 2019 at 11:36pm
Last season they said Serie A is back.I didn't believe it then and now it's obvious it is not.We only have Juve year after year who might win a trophy in Europe.Non-one else.Serie A = Poor teams,poor stadiums,poor crowds.
on the 15th March, 2019 at 8:35pm
I’m a Juve fan but was rooting for Inter and Napoli last night. It has to be said Inter is such a crappy team. They couldn’t beat an average opponent at home again this season. Their best striker doesn’t want to play for them, they barely had enough senior players to play for them last night so they had to bring a 16 year old kid as a sub. This is a team in shambles. An embarrassment to themselves and to Serie A football. Hopefully Napoli can save Serie A in the EL.
on the 15th March, 2019 at 3:20pm
As an Inter fan this is becoming farcical to watch.I have stopped watching them due to the constant failings of this team. This was supposed to be a team challenging for the scudetto on paper. Although I do not like Spaletti's style of management, there are some obvious problems in this club with the players. Standards have to be raised on the pitch and this team has to start looking long term instead of these band-aid solutions.
on the 15th March, 2019 at 3:16pm
Hoping Napoli can recover from their serious injury issue and really focus on EL. Winning there would give the team some confidence for next year.

Inter are just having a really difficult moment, made even worst by the fact that they've already aired so much dirty laundry.
on the 15th March, 2019 at 3:16pm
Looking at Napoli play in Salzburg, Europe is very doubtful for Italian side. The chance is Arsenal might be even worse.
Napoli lacks leader, and Insigne injury doesn't help in that. Pitch leader and best player is Koulibaly, but we don't know how about dressing room (no Hamsik nor Reina). On the other hand, Insigne three weeks break brings chance for Mertens.
on the 15th March, 2019 at 2:50pm
@john smith

And they love bragging about their 2010 treble, time to move on.
Quit living in the past.
on the 15th March, 2019 at 11:47am
The current state of affairs is pretty much how we should have expected it at the start of the season.

Juve are the only Serie A side that belong in the latter stages of the CL. Yes, the others might get there too and Roma/Porto was 50/50, but only Juve are good enough.

The EL is a more realistic target, but Napoli are the only real threat in it. The Milan's don't belong in either comp. and Lazio are as bad as them.

Juve & Napoli have a chance of winning this year, hopefully at least one will
on the 15th March, 2019 at 11:40am
The problem with Inter fans is:
1 They keep blaming Juventus for everything, instead of concentrating on their situation.
2 They keep give EL, or so the claim, to concentrate on the 4th CL spot. But losing out on important coefficient points in EL risk losing Italy's 4th CL spot.
1 Building new stadiums.
2 Taking EL serious.
on the 15th March, 2019 at 10:44am

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