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The Champions League Push: Round 24 Review

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Inter are back in 4th, but the gap remains 6 points.

Manchester City v Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

With Inter looking to push for a top-three Serie A finish—and an all-important Champions League spot—in the second half of the season, let’s check-in on how the Nerazzurri’s rivals fared this weekend.

Round 24

Inter entered Round 24 of Serie A tied for fifth place with Atalanta after the 1-0 loss to Juventus, trailing fourth place Lazio by a point, and third place Napoli by six.

While the 2-0 win over Emploi certainly puts the club on the right track and back to winning ways, Inter were unable able to close the gap on the top-three. However, thanks to a Monday night draw, the Nerazzurri jump over Lazio to reclaim fourth place.

Lazio and AC Milan

Entering the weekend, Lazio led Inter by a point in the table, while Milan trailed the Nerazzurri by two. A draw is always a favorable outcome when a pair of close rivals face each other, so we should be happy with Monday’s 1-1 result at the Stadio Olimpico.

Lazio took the lead in first half stoppage time when Milan keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma fouled Ciro Immobile in the box. Lucas Biglia scored the ensuing penalty to give the home side a 1-0 lead. Milan found a late equalizer in the 85th minute when Suso collected the ball at the edge of the box and beat three Lazio defenders to slot his shot past backup keeper Thomas Strakosha.

The result was good news for Inter, who now move ahead of Lazio and increase the lead over Milan.

Lazio

Points behind Inter: 1

Up next in the league: Empoli away on Saturday

Milan

Points behind Inter: 4

Up next in the league: Fiorentina at home on Sunday

Atalanta

Atalanta, perhaps the most surprising team in Italy this season, entered Round 24 level on points with Inter and tied for fifth place. Their 3-1 away win over Palermo ensured that the Serie A upstarts also move past Lazio in the table.

Right wingback Andrea Conti opened the scoring in the 19th minute, and Alejandro Gomez doubled the lead just seven minutes later. While Palermo were able to get a goal back before halftime, substitute Bryan Christante’s 71st minute diving header sealed the victory for Atalanta.

Level with Inter on points

Up next in the league: Crotone at home on Saturday

Napoli

Napoli entered the weekend in third place, holding a six-point lead over Inter. On Friday, they faced a Genoa side at home, which hadn’t won a league game in 10 consecutive matches.

Predictably, Napoli won 2-0 in a fairly convincing fashion. Piotr Zielinski opened the scoring for Napoli early in the second half, hammering home a loose ball in the box. Emanuele Giaccherini doubled the lead in the 68th minute easily scoring on an open net after a nice run and pass from Dries Mertins.

With the Champions League returning this week, Napoli have a very challenging mid-week fixture against reigning European Champions Real Madrid on Wednesday.

Points ahead of Inter: 6

Up next in the league: Chievo Verona away on Sunday

AS Roma

Roma entered Round 24 of Serie A eight points ahead of Inter, having won eight of their last ten matches in all competitions. They faced lowly Crotone away on Sunday, and easily won 2-0.

Mohamed Salah won a rather soft penalty early in the first half, but Edin Dzeko was unable to convert from the spot on the resulting penalty, rolling the ball wide of the net. Despite the missed opportunity, Roma took the lead in the 40th minute when Radja Nainggolan scored on a perfectly placed shot. Unsurprisingly, Roma dominated possession throughout the match. Dzeko sealed the victory in the 77th minute, with a tap in goal from a Salah cross.

Roma have a busy schedule this week, which will see them travel to Spain to face Villarreal in the Europa League knockout stage just three days before their Serie A match.

Points ahead of Inter: 8

Up next in the league: Torino at home on Sunday

Juventus

Having recently restored their Serie A lead over Roma to seven points, Juve entered Round 24 on a five-match winning streak in the league. The defending champions faced Cagliari away on Sunday, and won 2-0.

Gonzalo Higuain netted a brace with goals on both sides of halftime. Higuain is now alone atop the league scoring charts with 18 Serie A goals, one above Torino’s Andrea Belotti, and three ahead of Mauro Icardi. Despite winning rather easily, Juventus did rack up five yellow cards in the match.

Juve’s Champions League campaign resumes next week, and with an easy home fixture on Friday, they may rotate the squad to prepare for FC Porto.

Points ahead of Inter: 15 (Juve are also seven points clear of second place Roma)

Up next in the league: Palermo at home on Friday

Table

Here’s how the table looks entering Round 24:

Of Inter’s rivals, Roma have the most challenging fixture this weekend — facing Torino after a Thursday night Europa League away match.

Roma dropping points could put Inter within striking distance when the two sides face each other at the San Siro on February 26th. That match is shaping up to be a crucial game for the Nerazzurri’s top three hopes. Still, Inter can only take it one match at a time, so let’s hope for a fully concentrated effort against Bologna in the early match on Sunday.