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Immature Inter Not Ready To Blossom

The Nerazzurri have wasted numerous opportunities to grab a firm hold of the final Champions League spot...

Claudio Villa

Trying to figure out this current Inter team is a lot like striving to make sense of a walking contradiction. It's an exercise in futility but we're going to try nonetheless.

This squad has shown unlimited potential but also the ability to implode on any given weekend. It took me a little while to figure out but it's now clear to me that the Nerazzurri are going through their teenage phase.

There's no other way to describe their schizophrenic displays. Flashes of burgeoning brilliance have been overshadowed by episodes of maddening inconsistency. Last Sunday's 3-3 draw with Parma provides for the perfect case study.

Inter looked disinterested in the early going and deservedly fell behind 1-0 before trailing 2-1 at the break. They came out like men possessed in the second half and scored two goals in two minutes to take the lead only to clam up and concede the equalizer a few moments later.

It was a massive letdown to say the least. You didn't have to be there to feel the air deflate from the Meazza. The circumstances were begging Inter to go for the jugular. Parma was reeling, the crowd was behind them and momentum was firmly on their side but they let up instead of finishing the job. Why come all the way back just to throw things away minutes later?

It's been a disturbing trend that has reared its ugly head all season long. They have also blown second-half leads to Juventus, Cagliari, Torino and Sampdoria. Is it psychological at this point?

Well, it's not uncommon for teenagers to veer off the rails and most of the time a good mentor is required to get them back on the right track.

Walter Mazzarri has brought stability and discipline to a squad that sorely needed it after last season. It looked as if it was going to be a smooth transition until Roma came to town and punched them square in the mouth.

It was a big blow but the Beneamata haven't lost since and in classic Inter fashion they are unbeaten in their last eight games but are on the verge of becoming irrelevant in the race for the last Champions League spot.

Mazzarri has worked wonders with the squad he has at his disposal as you could make a pretty convincing argument that only Samir Handanovic would step into the starting lineup of any of Europe's elite clubs.

Mazzarri has done a stellar job and to call for his dismissal borders on the absurd but he has erred in preferring Fredy Guarin over Mateo Kovacic to play behind the lone striker. The much-maligned Colombian has become Inter's favorite whipping boy, following in the footsteps of Sulley Muntari, Goran Pandev and Cristian Chivu in years past.

An exit seems inevitable especially with a handful of Premier League suitors knocking on Guarin's door. However, his fate was sealed at the club the moment after his immature reaction to the fans when he was substituted against Fiorentina.

Mazzarri will have his work cut out for him as he prepares to go back to his old stomping ground on Sunday. The game against Rafa Benitez's Napoli will be personal for a couple of different reasons.

Both managers will be facing their former teams and the contrasting ways they departed is too big of a storyline to ignore. Mazzarri led Napoli back among the Italian elite after years in the Serie A doldrums and left to achieve bigger things while Benitez was unceremoniously shown the door before the Christmas of 2010 following an ill-advised ultimatum.

Napoli are coming off a 2-0 victory over Arsenal but fell short of advancing in the Champions League, despite recording 12 points in the group stage. The Partenopei players were given a standing ovation after the final whistle and while they undoubtedly exerted a massive amount of energy, this game is important for Benitez and his charges are guaranteed to be all fired up on Sunday afternoon.

Inter on the other hand look a little too vulnerable for my liking at the moment and that's not the ideal frame of mind ahead of the trip down south . An emotionally charged atmosphere awaits the Nerazzurri and the big question is whether they have the mental fortitude to handle such a herculean task right now.

Uncertainty at home with the ownership change can be used as a valid excuse for some of the uneven displays but now that the sale has been completed we're going to see whether this immature teenager is ready to evolve into the man that he is destined to be.

This two-game stretch will go a long way in determining if we are going to hear angry, bitter music blasting from his bedroom or if the sound of the Champions League anthem will permeate through the sweet, summer air.