The current table shows Inter in 5th place yet the Nerazzurri have a greater chance of competing for the league title than Udinese or Lazio who are currently above them in the standings. Inter’s players have the necessary experience and the quality players to challenge for titles while both Udinese and Lazio are lacking in terms of experience and the killer instinct needed to win difficult matches.
The Nerazzurri have yet to benefit from the signing of Diego Forlan who has been sidelined due to injury for the most part while key player Wesley Sneijder has been dealing with injury and fitness issues for the majority of the season. Sneijder might have also been distracted by rumors of a potential transfer to the English Premier League to join some of the elite clubs such as Manchester United.
With the dust settled on those rumors and Sneijder certain of finishing the season with Inter, this could serve as a major boost for the club’s title hopes. Sneijder was one of the best players not just in Italy but the world when Jose Mourinho was in charge at Inter and the Dutch star was also one of most important players during South Africa 2010 when the Netherlands reached the World Cup final.
Inter possess experience and the winning mentality in abundance with a squad including skipper Javier Zanetti, midfielder Esteban Cambiasso and striker Diego Milito. Argentine attacker Milito scored the decisive goal in the 1-0 win over bitter city rivals Milan. This precious victory will provide tremendous boost for the squad’s confidence and will allow coach Claudio Ranieri to remain optimistic for the remainder of the season. While Inter’s resurgence has not gone unnoticed, common sense dictates that the Serie A title will go to either neighbors Milan or eternal rivals Juventus.
Milan’s injury list which has deprived the club of two key attacking options in the shape of Antonio Cassano and Alexandre Pato has had a negative effect on the club’s title defense yet the Rossoneri are a mere point behind Juventus in the league standings. This is a strong testament to the club’s pool of talent with the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Kevin-Prince Boateng helping to offset the crucial absences. Cassano had a heart procedure and his return date has yet to be set while Pato will likely be out for 3 to 4 weeks.
The Rossoneri remain the favorites for the title because they have a more talented squad than the Bianconeri. Milan’s squad contains a number of proven players such as Thiago Silva, Robinho and Alessandro Nesta. While the loss to Inter in the city derby was a damaging blow, the overall effect on the league standings has been minimal. Milan’s European adventure might be the one major hindrance which could likely benefit league leaders Juventus.
The Bianconeri are focused on the domestic front since Juve failed to qualify to Europe following a dismal season. With coach Antonio Conte leading the charge, the Bianconeri have been able to avoid defeat in 18 league matches so far. The draw against Napoli showed how determined the squad is under the guidance of Conte. The presence of a former Bianconeri player at the coaching helm has been a bonus for Juve even if a similar experiment with Ciro Ferrara failed in the recent past. The circumstances are quite different today as opposed to during Ferrara’s unsuccessful spell. Ferrara was inexperienced and an unproven tactician when he took over as a coach while Conte had already be then helped two clubs earn promotion from Serie B to Italy’s elite Serie A.
Conte’s aggressive approach, fighting spirit and determination as both a former midfielder and a coach have been transmitted to his starting XI as evident in the playing style of midfielders Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio as well as winger Simone Pepe. Unsurprisingly, Conte’s greatest influence has been felt amongst the club’s midfielders such as Marchisio and the rejuvenated maestro Andre Pirlo.
It would be unwise to bet against Conte’s side remaining at the top when the season’s final whistle is heard but who is brave enough to bet against Milan’s Ibrahimovic? The next few months will be interesting and the clash between the top two clubs on February 26th will be one to keep an eye on.