As I speculated on in an earlier post, it seems that Roberto Mancini’s “I’m leaving…wait…no I’m staying” routine has contributed to Inter’s shocking decline of form. The announcement was made moments after Inter had been dumped out of the Champions League by Liverpool by a 3-0 aggregate scoreline.
Going back as far as February 16, Inter were 11 points clear at the top of Serie A and look to be well on their way to a second consecutive Scudetto. Since then, a lot has happened and by the time the defending Serie A champions visit Lazio on Saturday their lead could be down to just one point. Lazio have been in good form recently, winning the Rome derby 3-2 against Roma with a late strike from Swiss midfielder Valon Behrami.
After Mancini’s announcement, rumours began spreading rampantly about a fall-out with the club president and speculation on who would replace Mancini began. Jose Mourinho, Rafa Benitez and Fiorentina coach Cesare Prandelli have all been linked with the manager’s job at Inter.
There are of course more direct reasons for the downturn in form. Inter are struggling with injuries and suspension at the moment. For their match against Lazio, they will be without Julio Cruz, Patrick Vieira, Esteban Cambiasso, Ivan Cordoba and Walter Samuel. Meanwhile, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is rumoured to be fighting off a knee problems so Hernan Crespo and David Suazo could start up front. All signs point to a makeshit lineup with a few players being called on to play out of position.
The match will have plenty of drama as Goal.com has been reporting on a potential controversial deal for Lazio to throw the game in order for a return favor from Inter in the Coppa Italia. Both Inter and Lazio deny the claims. The match will be broadcast on FSC in the US and Canada, with a replay on Sunday on TLN in Canada.
Meanwhile, Inter’s closest rivals AS Roma are facing their own selection problems as they travel to lowly Cagliari. Simone Perrotta and Daniele De Rossi, as well as Macedonia forward Mirko Vucinic are all suspended for the match while Brazilian defender Juan is injured. Roma are also set to play a Champions League quarter-final match against Manchester United on Tuesday.
Cagliari might put up a better fight than their 18th place position in the table would indicate. The Sardinian side have won three and drawn one of their last five matches and are on the brink of escaping the bottom three as they fight for their Serie A survival. Keep an eye on Cagliari’s Robert Acquafresca. Not only does he have one of the coolest names in Serie A but he also has nine goals in all competitions this season. He is currently a member of the Italian U-21 squad and also has ties to Inter having been with the club before being involved in the David Suazo transfer, which saw Acquafresca move to Cagliari.
The Roma – Cagliaria match will also be carried by FSC on Saturday.