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.