Inter Milan lost Antonio Conte, Romelu Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi in the summer, so a drop-off from last term’s success would have been understandable. That hasn’t been the case though. The Nerazzurri currently lead the way in the Serie A standings as they look to be the team to capitalise on Juventus’ shortcomings once again. So, are Inter on course to retain the title?
Are Inter Milan on Course to Retain the Serie A Title?
Inter’s Title Win Last Time Out
As previously hinted at, Inter romped to the Scudetto last season under the stewardship of Antonio Conte. Prior to that, Juventus had dominated the league, coming out on top in nine consecutive seasons. Their turmoil under Maurizio Sarri and then Andrea Pirlo opened the door for a number of teams to challenge, such as AC Milan and Atalanta, who ended up finishing in the top four but not being able to match Inter all the way.
It was a trademark Conte team as he deployed five at the back and it was spearheaded by two sensational strikers in Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez. The latter is continuing to excel in Milan, something which will be covered in greater detail later, whilst the former was arguably the best player in the whole of Serie A last campaign.
Inter Milan’s Title Credentials
The aforementioned loss of Lukaku, Conte and Hakimi amongst others was expected by many to make a title defending season much more difficult for Inter. That being said, they haven’t really skipped a beat. Simone Inzaghi went under the radar as he turned Lazio into a Champions League team despite being on a relatively thin budget. There were question marks over whether Inzaghi was of the calibre to fight it out for a league title, something which has been swiftly dispelled.
Lukaku has yet to properly establish himself back in the Premier League, whereas Edin Dzeko and Joaquin Correa have done a great job of filling the void. Dzeko seems to be the solution at this point in time, while Argentinian international Correa, who arrived from Lazio along with Inzaghi, can be a long-term partner to his fellow countryman Martinez. Hakimi on the other hand, was excellent at both Dortmund and Inter, and will surely thrive at PSG. His replacement is Denzel Dumfries, a young man who shone at the Euros in a right wing-back role for the Netherlands.
At the time of writing, Inter are a point ahead of their city rivals AC Milan with a game in hand, with Napoli and Atalanta completing the top four. Last time out, goals from defensive duo Milan Skriniar and Alessandro Bastoni saw Inter beat Inzaghi’s former employer Lazio. Other impressive results include a dramatic 3-2 win over Napoli at the San Siro and also when they blew Roma out of the water in the first half at the Stadio Olimpico in early December. However, when clashing with the fellow big hitters, they have tended to draw along with a 3-1 defeat to Lazio.
Who is Challenging Inter?
It is not yet wise to write off a Max Allegri side but the ACL injury to star-player Federico Chiesa is a true hammer blow to both the hopes of the club and the Italian national team also. Allegri was at the heart of a lot of Juve’s success in years gone by, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he turned it all around. They snuck into the top four on the final day last season all thanks to a Napoli slip up and it remains the case that they will be in that battle as opposed to that for the title.
On the topic of Napoli and after some early-season division-leading form, a culmination of issues has seen Luciano Spalletti’s side fall off. Victor Osimhen and Zambo-Anguissa have both fallen victim to injury, AFCON is now upon us and Lorenzo Insigne being announced as Toronto FC-bound are all causing their own issues. Napoli featured inthe teams to watch for 2022 as many believe that they could come back into the title picture but there are certain hurdles to overcome first.
AC Milan and Atalanta completed the podium last season behind Inter and they currently occupy second and third as well. Under Gasperini, Atalanta have become everybody’s second team across the continent with their extremely watchable football as well as their remarkable business when it comes to transfers. They are yet to win anything but they continue to challenge in the upper echelons of the Serie A table. AC Milan on the other hand are obviously a very historic club and have undergone somewhat of a rebirth in recent years. The two Milan clubs are the pair to beat in Italy currently and it’ll be fascinating to see if the Rossoneri can leapfrog their San Siro rivals.
Coming up for Inter are mammoth clashes with Milan, Atalanta and Napoli, a.k.a. their three closest challengers. This period could well make or break the title race as, if Inter can escape relatively unscathed, then a second consecutive Scudetto is theirs to lose. Will Inzaghi’s men get their hands on the much sought-after silverware?
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