Inter on brink of Serie A title as Juve battle for Champions League spot

Friday, April 30th, 2021 00:00 |
Inter Milan’s Italian coach Antonio Conte (C) celebrates with Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku after Inter opened the scoring during their Italian Serie A match against Hellas Verona on April 25, 2021 at the San Siro stadium in Milan. Photo/AFP

Inter Milan are on the brink of the Serie A title which they could claim for the first time in over a decade this weekend while Juventus scramble for a Champions League spot.

Antonio Conte’s Inter travel south to basement club Crotone on Saturday where a win would allow them to put one hand on a trophy they last won in 2010.

If Inter win and second-placed Atalanta, who are 11 points off top spot, fail to claim all three points at Sassuolo on Sunday, Inter will lift their 19th Serie A crown with four games to go.

Inter could also be crowned champions with a draw if Atalanta lose, but other results would have to go the league leaders’ way.

Inter’s Chinese president Steven Zhang returned to Milan this week for the run-in to the title celebrations.

And despite the pressure midfielder Nicolo Barella said the team were in a “calm frame of mind” having come close last season.

Inter finished one point behind Juventus last year, having also lost the Europa League final in 2020 to Sevilla.

“We had the same objective last season. We lost a final and this galvanised us,” said Barella. 

“We transformed the experience into something positive. This year, we’re in the position we wanted to be in.

“We’re a well-balanced side that has found an identity.”

Barella scored in Inter’s 2-0 win over Juventus in the San Siro in January, “the match that made us aware of our strength,” the Italian said. 

“Beating the team that had dominated for years was important.”

Top Inter scorers Romelu Lukaku (21) and Lautaro Martínez (15) will be eager to find the net having both failed to score in the past four games.

Crotone, meanwhile, can count on Nigerian forward Simy, the third top scorer in Serie A with 19 goals this campaign, who scored last weekend in a win over Parma to delay relegation.

Juventus are fourth with coach Andrea Pirlo under increasing pressure as they travel to Udinese fighting not to slip out of the top four.

Juve lost their last trip to Udine back in July, and have been shaky on the road this campaign, dropping points in 10 away games.

They are equal on points with third-placed Napoli and AC Milan, in fifth, with Lazio lurking five points off fourth place with a game in hand.

AC Milan host 18th-placed Benevento at the San Siro with Zlatan Ibrahimovic set to return as the side come off back-to-back defeats.

Milan have struggled at home this campaign, while five of Benevento’s seven wins have been away.

Lazio host Genoa looking for a club record 11 straight wins at home, as city rivals Roma, six points behind, travel to Sampdoria, smarting from a 6-2 mauling at the hands of Manchester United in the Europa League, semi-final, first leg on Thursday.

At the bottom of the table, relegation rivals Torino and Parma go head-to-head on Monday.

Cristiano Ronaldo has cut an increasingly frustrated figure despite leading the Serie A scorers’ chart with 25 goals in 29 games.

The 36-year-old has failed to score in Juventus’s last three league games. “Success happens when your dreams are bigger than your excuses,” said the Portuguese forward on social media, targeting the top scorer honour for the first time since arriving in Turin in 2018. -AFP

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