On a sunny and pleasant Sunday afternoon in Milan, Inter scored two and conceded one as Cesena lost the battle on the Giuseppe Meazza. After having won in Udine in the mid-week fixture, the highly desirable third place in the Serie A was still reachable for Inter as Lazio surprisingly lost away to Novara. Before Sunday’s game, the Nerazzurri were on a string of five consecutive games without losing. A string of games that began when the up-and-coming Andrea Stramaccioni took over as the replacement for Claudio Ranieri on the Inter bench. Following the 2-2 draw in Rome between AS Roma and Napoli in the Saturday night fixture, Inter were fifth with 52 points earned, while Napoli were fourth with 55 points after 35 games – on the same tally as third placed Lazio, who played Udinese on Sunday night.
After the bore draw against Fiorentina last weekend Inter’s chances of securing the third place finish were almost finished but just a few days later the Nerazzurri proved their credentials by securing an important away win at the Stadio Friuli against Udinese. This combined with both Lazio and Roma losing their matches means that Inter are now in sixth place on equal points with fifth place Udinese, both having 52 points just three points behind third placed Lazio with both teams yet to play against the Biancocelesti in the last four games of the season.
A much needed win and it all happened in the first half of the match with Udinese going on the offensive from the kickoff they were rewarded early on when defender Danilo struck a wonderful shot from the edge of the area that flew past Julio Cesar and ricocheted off the upright to cross the line and put the Bianconeri ahead.
The Serie A week 33 match against Fiorentina at the Stadio Artemio Franchi was Inter’s first since the untimely death of Piermario Morosini last weekend and before kickoff both teams stood united in a minute silence to honour his memory.
This was really a must win match for Inter if they were to keep up the pressure on finishing in the last Champions League spot of third, and everything seemed to be in their favour as Fiorentina have had an even more disappointing season than that of Inter, finding themselves sitting on the edge of safety down the bottom of the table. Inter also were handed the advantage that the Viola were without key players like Amauri who was suspended and Stevan Jovetic who is injured, not only that for reasons unknown to me, Fiorentina coach Delio Rossi decided to have Riccardo Montolivo on the bench instead of on the pitch. This combined with the fact they were playing two teenage and fairly unexperienced center backs meant that Inter started the game with a huge advantage over the home side.
After what could only be described as a disappointing draw last Saturday against Cagliari, Inter were back on the pitch just four days later, this time back on home turf of the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza and with only seven matches left this season everyone from Andrea Stramaccioni to the squad and the fans knew that to stand any chance of performing miracles and securing the targeted third place Champions League spot we had to secure a win.
The Nerazzurri didn’t disappoint, making it two out of three wins for Stramaccioni on the day our captain Javier Zanetti matched Dino Zoff as the third player with the most Serie A appearances with 570 with only former Inter goalkeeper Gianluca Pagliuca (592) and AC Milan’s Paolo Maldini (647) appearing more times than him, both of which are now retired.
Just a week ago Stramaccioni was celebrating the Inter Primavera NexGen Series final win and now this week he’s in charge of the first team that has struggled for the last couple of months under the direction of Claudio Ranieri. Since the announcement by Massimo Moratti on Monday evening that the 36-year-old youth team coach was taking over as caretaker coach a new optimism has engulfed everyone associated with Inter.
With his humble but charismatic character he seems to have won over the changing room and with his background in charge of the Primavera squad there is a great expectation of him being the ideal person to phase out the older players in the squad and replace them with a selection of the most promising talents from both the first team and youth squads.
Inter’s week 29 2011/12 Serie A match away for the first time at the new Juventus stadium didn’t end as I was hoping it would. Even though I knew our chances in this match were slim at best, considering the difference in form this season between the Bianconeri and the Nerazzurri, I still held on to that faint glimmer of hope that Inter could be the first team this season to hand our old enemy a defeat.
Of course that was asking too much of Claudio Ranieri and our aged team and even though we didn’t manage to beat them we did put up a good fight and make them work hard for their win.
Ranieri opted for his 4-4-2 formation for the game with just two changes from the squad that flopped against Atalanta last week, bringing in Dejan Stankovic in place of Esteban Cambiasso and Diego Forlan partnering Diego Milito instead of Giampaolo Pazzini. New boy Fredy Guarin made another step towards his debut and was picked to sit on the bench as one of the back up brigade.
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After Inter’s superb win against Chievo last Friday evening and with Marseille losing yet again in their own league the stage was set for the Nerazzurri to turn around the 1-0 first leg defeat. The plan was to show the French side the strength and resolve that Inter has to turn around results like these in front of a packed Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, using the same lineup that produced a winning display in Verona Claudio Ranieri expected his squad to come out fighting and take the game to the visitors.
The reality though was that from the kickoff Marseille looked as though they weren’t happy to just defend their one goal aggregate lead and wanted the away goal to sure up their position ahead of Inter. Less than ten minutes in to the game it looked like Inter would level things off as captain Javier Zanetti took the ball in to the box cutting it back for Wesley Sneijder who just had to chip it in to a fairly open net but instead he hit it low straight in to the goalkeepers body much to the surprise of everyone watching the match.
What a great week it has been for me and all Interisti, starting with the 2-2 comeback last week against Catania where we started to see sparks of the Inter we all know and love, then in the midweek I was honoured and proud to see that both Bedy Moratti & Inter themselves had mentioned Nerazzurri World on Twitter. Then as we celebrated Inter’s 104th Birthday the Nerazzurri secured their first win since the Lazio game back on the 22nd January.
This game saw the return of both Dejan Stankovic and Maicon to the starting line up and Claudio Ranieri opted for another try with the 4-3-1-2 formation. the lineup was fairly unsurprising with him going with our strongest back four of Maicon, Lucio, Walter Samuel and Yuto Nagatomo. The three man midfield consisted of Javier Zanetti, Dejan Stankovic and Andrea Poli, personally I would’ve left Stankovic out and brought in Marco Davide Faraoni to play on the right with Zanetti in the center but I’m not Inter’s head coach so we have to respect Ranieri’s decisions. The attack was exactly as I would’ve chosen with Wesley Sneijder behind the partnership of the two Diegos Forlan and Milito, this set up works well in my opinion as Forlan can drop deeper and wider to create more chances for Milito unlike Giampaolo Pazzini who like I’ve said many times is too similar to ‘El Principe’ and is purely a box player.
The week 26 match against Catania at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza was being considered a last chance saloon for Claudio Ranieri and just to add more pressure to the Italian coach’s situation, earlier in the day the man most people are touting as his replacement, Andre Villas-Boas, was dismissed from Chelsea FC after an unconvincing season in the English Premier League.
Ranieri himself must have realised he really is close to losing his job as for this match he decided to return to his winning formula of the 4-4-2 formation, opting to put our under fire trequartista Wesley Sneijder on the bench instead of risking once again playing him behind the strikers. Also despite being called up to the initial squad, Claudio decided to play it safe and drop Maicon from the match squad completely as he is still feeling some discomfort in his knee that was injured in the Champions league match against Marseille.
This meant that Javier Zanetti and Yuto Nagatomo took up the full back positions either side of Lucio and Walter Samuel, this is all well and good apart from he started Zanetti as left back and Nagatomo in his weaker rightback position. This of course is from the coach that has publicly said in the past that he’s not convinced by Zanetti as left back?!? New boy Juan Jesus took a step towards making his debut but unfortunately spent the entire match on the bench, this was a disappointment to me as I’m looking forward to seeing what the Brazilian defender can do, and there were times during the match where a quicker defender would have been very useful for Inter.
The 2011/12 Serie A season has been a very hard one for all involved with F.C Internazionale, with everyone from President Massimo Moratti, the players, backroom staff and even the fans feeling the pressure of a season that has seen more defeats than any in recent memory and the ongoing crisis has deepened for Inter after their latest defeat to Napoli, making it eight games in a row without a win for the Nerazzurri, what is even more worrying is the fact that seven of those have been defeats and even in the one draw they achieved in that time there was still four goals conceded.
The Nerazzurri now sit in 7th place on 36 points which is a massive nine points behind Lazio in their targeted Champions league qualifying 3rd place and any chance of challenging for the Scudetto is long gone with AC Milan in 1st place, 15 points ahead with just 13 games left to play this season. On paper with a lot of lucky results Inter could still do it but the reality is that any dreams of their 19th Scudetto must wait until at least next season now.