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Monday January 6 2020
Inter Luk-ing good

Ending their Napoli taboo confirms Inter are more than capable of snatching the Scudetto from Juventus, notes Giancarlo Rinaldi.

When you finally get a result that you have not achieved in about a quarter of a century, it must tell you something. In Inter’s case, a first Serie A win at the San Paolo since 1997 - when many of you reading may have been but babies - delivered the latest sentence in an ever-more-convincing tale. This side has serious intentions of pinching the Scudetto from La Vecchia Signora’s handbag.

The game was billed as a watershed match-up between two coaches who have made grit and determination their stock in trade. The pitchside microphones will rarely have picked up more incessant encouragement than they did while Rino Gattuso and Antonio Conte paced the sidelines in Naples. At the end, it was the Nerazzurri’s title ambitions that were rubber-stamped, while the Partenopei’s hopes of a revival looked more distant than a kind word from the home support for Lorenzo Insigne.

It wasn’t always exemplary from Inter, they were troubled at times, but showed a ruthlessness that is typical of championship contenders. There was an element of defensive error in all three of the goals they delivered, but the strike force of Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez is nonetheless a devastating one. They always seem coiled and ready to pounce - often just when you make the mistake of thinking you are playing well and have them under control.

No doubt their perfectionist boss will be annoyed about conceding a goal but, overall, his team was pretty solid at the back. Their hosts huffed and puffed but, despite leaving Diego Godin on the bench, the boys in blue and black dealt with most of the attacking threat they had to offer. The pressure on Juventus was maintained.

There’s an irony in the situation facing Conte’s counterpart in charge of Napoli at this moment in time. Many of us felt that Gattuso was far from the only problem at Milan when he was shown the door there, but we are swiftly discovering that Carlo Ancelotti was not the only issue in Naples either. The feeling of the end of an era is hard to avoid - even if this is still a team capable of producing some attractive football. Although the absences of Dries Mertens and Kalidou Koulibaly would hurt most sides, to be fair.

Their coach was his usual frank and honest self at full-time and it was hard to argue with his assessment. It is no use looking at the league table just now, they need to find some consistency in their results. The time for recriminations over the dramatic decline of a side which for the past few seasons has been a top of the table contender will come at the end of this campaign. At the moment, he needs all his troops pulling in the same direction in a mid-table battle they are singularly unaccustomed to fighting.

But while the volume of prayers for salvation to San Gennaro will have increased, those to Sant’Ambrogio are currently being answered. Inter appear to have been transformed by the Conte treatment and have cut out many of the frailties and failings they have shown in recent seasons. The tightest defence in the division, a midfield with an impressive array of combative and creative options and a 30-goal double act up front is not a bad recipe for staying near the top of the table for some time.

Conte will already have filed away this victory - historic as it might have been - and be gearing up for the next battle. Juventus had earlier sent out their signal with a resounding win over the previously impressive Cagliari side and Lazio continue to harbour their dreams thanks to a come from behind triumph in Brescia.

Now there is the little matter of a clash with Atalanta coming up to keep everyone’s feet on the ground at Inter. If they require any lessons about how hard it is to get across the line and take the title, they only need to ask the team they vanquished so clinically in their key clash at the San Paolo.

Have your say...
Spirit willy are you stupid or what? Inter don't have a thin squad by sheer numbers, they have a thin squad because of injuries. Juve on the other hand are relatively injury free as far as their first team players are concerned. Chiellini was their only big loss this season.
on the 9th January, 2020 at 2:10am
Conte tends to do well early on and then it can often unravel pretty quick. But, for now, he's doing pretty much what I expected
They were always likely to be the only real challenge to Juve and so it is
Lazio may fall short with too many average players in their squad

It'll be interesting to see Inter next season too. Keeping Martinez is a must. Adding Eriksen, Mertens on frees, maybe Izzo and Grimaldo at the back. They could really do well

As for their neighbours, that's just one sad story
on the 8th January, 2020 at 9:18am
The talk about we have a thin squad is 'false'. We have two sets of wingback, clan of midfield, junk of defenders sure!! And an adept striking force.... I will add a chinky striker to it for extracting a super-sub effect. Rest can be decide slowly in next season's pre-season.
.......
on the 8th January, 2020 at 8:27am
@monte - agreed, juve still have the advantage with the bigger squad. To be fair, inter would be further ahead had they not had so many injuries this season. Not sure I would say we are playing at maximum - with sensi, barella, sanchez coming back in already offers a massive increase. All 3 players have missed a fair chunk of time this season. If we can sign a couple more decent players, inter should push up another gear. Juve not palying at their best but no guarantee that Sarri will get there
on the 8th January, 2020 at 2:19am
Great to see a real title challenge this year, unlike last season. I think Inter is playing at its maximum and unless they get some quality reinforcements, will probably run out of steam by April just as they did before Christmas. Juve, on the other hand, are still in 3rd gear with improvement to come. It will all come down to the Juve-Inter match at the Allianz stadium - given Juve beat Inter at San Siro, home advantage is huge for Juve. For these reasons it's still Juve's scudetto to lose.
on the 7th January, 2020 at 10:48pm
It would be great for the league if both Conte & Lazio can hold on and make a decent challenge against Juve for the title. We all miss the BIG games.
Napoli have collapsed and Milan have shrivelled away, which is disappointing.
Nobody, not even Juve fans would want a situation like which has developed in the english premier league. That league will be over before March. That league has lost almost all interest
on the 7th January, 2020 at 5:58pm
So many exciting games lined up for next week:
Inter - Atalanta
Roma - Juventus
Lazio - Napoli
Cagliari - Milan

What a time to be alive!
on the 7th January, 2020 at 4:53pm
I would not count my chickens too early, if I were Conte. There is still a long way to go. Injury to either Lukaku or Lautaro and this team would lose its momentum in a massive way. Inter is firing on all cylinders at the moment - whereas Juve has not fully blossomed under Sarri. They have room to improve and get even better. Besides, neither Paratici nor Nedved would want to surrender the title to Conte, given the acrimonious way he left Juve. This is a fight to the bitter end.
on the 7th January, 2020 at 4:31pm
As a Juve fan it pleases me to see Inter giving Juve a good run... However, from Feb 9th to mar 1st is a huge test for Inter. If they get out of that without many dropped pts then they have a good chance. Also if Inter fans are expecting cash from Europe then I think they need to let that go. Inter has Ludogorets-Samp-Ludogorets-Juve... all 3-4 days apart. My guess is Conte will not care too much for Europa especially with a Juve game thrown in there
on the 7th January, 2020 at 1:11pm
Conte should'nt just stop here. Keep team motivating stop giving excuses as that is the reason his careeer is haulted as a manager. You can't win in europe with this mentality. Where you can be drawn with barca one moment then real madrid and ultimately doomed down by bayarn next even if you passed those early hurdles. Conte only enjoys early success. He has record of that. Lukaku is coming of age story.. he has learned his lesson in the past.. was deadly at everton.. Man utd a one off case....
on the 7th January, 2020 at 6:47am
Barca only like to sell players they don't want - they refuse to let players leave otherwise. Eriksen would be silly to leave in January - why give spurs 20m when he could pocket the whole amount himself in June. I would be going for de paul!
on the 7th January, 2020 at 5:10am
Conte has completely revolutionised this team. With him at the helm, we are attracting more talent and will only get stronger. Would have been nice to see Sanchez get some minutes today, but with Barella suspended, he will likely get a run against Atalanta hopefully! Bastoni is developing nicely too, could he be a surprise selection for the euros? Would be amazing if we signed both vidal and Eriksen, but lets be real - we should be targeting players who will definitely come
on the 7th January, 2020 at 5:08am
Despite Napoli not being in great form, going to San Paolo and winning is still difficult for anyone. Definitely a great result for inter. Right now top 4 is almost garenteed, meaning another year of CL to come. Each year we qualify, the stronger we get, the more our brand continues to grow. We have a strong starting VI, need to pick up a few more options in case of injuries. But with Juve focussed on CL, it is likely they will drop points. Now is the time to strengthen!!
on the 7th January, 2020 at 5:03am
Atalanta will be stern opponents, but we have a strong team despite the suspensions.
We can stay in the title race as long as we avoid the mid-season slump we've suffered the last few years.
I have faith. Forza Inter!
on the 7th January, 2020 at 12:39am

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