Milan (AFP) – Italy striker Ciro Immobile insists he’s staying put in the capital as Lazio head to shaky Inter Milan looking to underline their status as potential Champions League candidates.
The final round of Serie A games in 2016 are held in midweek without leaders Juventus and AC Milan, who will contest the Italian Super Cup in Doha on Friday.
It gives Roma, Lazio and Napoli — all within eight points of the lead — the chance to make up some shortfall before the resumption of hostilities in the New Year.
Lazio, eight points adrift of leaders Juve in third, can leapfrog city rivals Roma and move up to second with a win at Inter in Wednesday’s only fixture.
Immobile’s solid form since joining the club following Euro 2016 has attracted interest from Paris Saint-Germain, according to reports in Italy.
But after brief spells at Sevilla and Borussia Dortmund, Immobile is not quite ready to leave Lazio yet: “One day, maybe. But I’m feeling good at Lazio and I don’t feel the need to change.
“I’m 26 years old and for me it’s a decisive period, I’ve decided to get the head down and work hard.
“The coach has spoiled me since I came here. He really wanted me here and he’s put me at the centre of his plans.”
Immobile hasn’t scored in Lazio’s last six league encounters since a 2-1 win over Sassuolo in October, but coach Simone Inzaghi, the brother of retired former Milan striker Filippo, won’t be ruffled.
He gave Immobile his full backing prior to a 3-1 win over Fiorentina on Monday, when the striker missed several chances to take his league goal tally for the season into double figures.
Lazio, and especially versatile Brazilian forward Felipe Anderson, were on fire at the Stadio Olimpico and Inter coach Stefano Pioli should be worried as he prepares to face his old team.
Despite leading Lazio to a credible third-place finish in 2015, he was sacked by the club in April following a 3-1 derby defeat to Roma.
– Inner turmoil –
Stuck in seventh, 15 points off top spot, Inter’s bid for European football in their first season under Chinese owners is already compromised.
Off the pitch, Inter, crowned kings of European football only six years ago when Jose Mourinho led them to a glorious treble, seem to be in continual inner turmoil.
Two months after striker Mauro Icardi was forced to reprint his autobiography following a highly-publicised row with hardline ultra fans who levelled allegations of lies at the Argentinian, the Inter captain was in the crosshairs again on Monday.
Icardi was reportedly the target when former Manchester City forward Stevan Jovetic, who has played only 67 minutes this season, claimed key players at the club “pick the team”.
Club sporting director Piero Ausilio hit back on Sunday: “If three coaches haven’t used him, it’s undoubtedly due to technical and tactical reasons.”
Icardi is tied with Roma’s Edin Dzeko and Torino striker Andrea Belotti on a league-leading 12 goals in Serie A, but on the pitch the Nerazzurri are still a work in progress.
Pioli will be reshuffling his midfield in the absence of suspended Portugal international Joao Mario and Brazlian Felipe Melo, who are serving one-match bans.
Napoli, too, are fancied for an away win when they visit Fiorentina on Thursday, days after a 5-3 win over Torino that saw Belgium’s Dries Mertens hit four goals to take his tally for the season to 10.
Elsewhere, Roma are without defender Kostas Manolas and midfield pair Radja Nainggolan and Daniele De Rossi — after the trio suffered injuries in a 1-0 defeat to Juventus on Sunday — for the visit of Chievo.
Dzeko could also be missing due to a bout of flu.
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Atalanta v Empoli (1945)
Inter Milan v Lazio (1945)
Cagliari v Sassuolo, Fiorentina v Napoli, Palermo v Pescara, Roma v Chievo, Sampdoria v Udinese, Torino v Genoa (all 1945)
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