‘No time to mope:’ Inter Milan seek Serie A lift after Euro flop
Inter Milan turn their focus back to Serie A after their Champions League flop with a trip to Cagliari awaiting on Sunday following their group stage exit midweek.
“There’s no time to sit and mope,” warned captain Samir Handanovic with his side out of Europe after finishing bottom of their Champions League group.
Antonio Conte’s side are second in Serie A, five points behind leaders AC Milan, with the two city rivals trying to deny Juventus a 10th consecutive league title.
“We have to focus on the league and the Coppa Italia,” urged Handanovic.
In his second campaign, Conte now has no choice but to deliver a 19th ‘Scudetto’ to Inter and first since 2010.
The former Juventus and Chelsea manager took Inter to second in Serie A and the Europa League final in his first season.
A third consecutive group stage exit was a shock for Conte’s expensively-assembled side, who are the top scorers domestically with 26 goals in 10 games.
Inter have spent nearly 300 million euros ($363 million) in the past two years on new signings and their exit from Europe will hit hard.
“There’s a lot of regret,” said Conte.
“We haven’t had much luck in the Champions League given certain incidents and refereeing decisions.”
AC Milan are riding high as they also target a 19th Scudetto and first since 2011.
Top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic could return against Parma after a muscle injury ruled him out of their last two league games.
Juventus, Lazio and Atalanta return to league action having all secured their passes to the Champions League knockout rounds.
Juventus, six points behind Milan in fourth, travel to lowly Genoa after their confidence-boosting 3-0 win at troubled Barcelona in which Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice.
“Playing like this, we have nothing to fear until the end of the season,” the triumphant Portugal captain said after the game.
Seventh-placed Lazio host Hellas Verona, who are just one point behind the Roman club, with Atalanta, in ninth, hosting Fiorentina.
Tuscan side Fiorentina are hovering above the relegation zone and hoping for a first win since October 25 against Atalanta, who have taken just five points in their last six games.
Third-placed Napoli, looking for a first win in their newly-named Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, host Sampdoria.
Gennaro Gattuso’s side are six points behind Milan, having scored eight goals in their last two games against Roma and Crotone.
Sassuolo host Benevento on Friday looking to regain some of their early momentum, having dropped to fifth in the table as Roma head to Bologna just a point behind Roberto De Zerbi’s flamboyant side.
One to watch: Josip Ilicic
Atalanta’s Josip Ilicic chases his first league goal this sesaon against former club Fiorentina.
The 32-year-old was out for two months with personal problems after the coronvirus lockdown, but got his first goal in the Champions League win over Liverpool two weeks ago.
Illcic played 105 matches with Fiorentina in Serie A between 2013 and 2017, before joining Atalanta where he had his best season last campaign with 15 league goals.
26 – Inter Milan’s league goals
16 – Points between AC Milan and Parma
5 – AC Milan’s Serie A lead
1 – Juventus away wins in the league
1 – Lazio and Atalanta’s home wins this season
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Sassuolo v Benevento (1945)
Crotone v Spezia (1400), Torino v Udinese (1700), Lazio v Hellas Verona (1945)
Cagliari v Inter Milan (1130), Atalanta v Fiorentina (1400), Napoli v Sampdoria (1400), Bologna v Roma (1400), Genoa v Juventus (1700), AC Milan v Parma (19h45)