As Inter Milan prepare for its biggest match of the season, it is important to know just how we got to this point.
A win and Inter is in. A loss and the Nerazzurri are playing in the Europa League.
So, here is a look at some key points of the season that drove Inter to its current situation:
The first 16 matches
Inter started the season on fire winning 12 of their first 16 and tying the other four to sit atop Serie A in the beginning of December.
The first 16 games came to an end with a 0-0 draw at Juventus Dec. 9.
Dec. 12 vs. Pordenone
This was supposed to be a cakewalk for Inter in their first match of the Coppa Italia, but it proved to be anything but.
Inter was unable to find the back of the net for the 120 minutes of the game as Serie C side Pordenone held Inter’s attack at bay for the duration.
Only in penalty kicks were the Nerazzurri able to pull out a 5-4 win after Mauro Icardi, Matias Vecino and Yuto Nagatomo connected on three straight and backup goalkeeper Daniele Padelli saved Giulio Parodi’s final attempt to send Inter through.
Dec. 16 vs. Udinese
Coming off the Coppa Italia match, Inter traveled to Udine to take on Udinese, who sat in 13th place in Serie A at the time.
Seems like a good way to bounce back from Pordenone, right? Wrong.
Tied 1-1 at halftime, Udinese came out on fire in the second half, getting goals from Rodrigo de Paul off a handball in the area by Davide Santon and a 77th minute strike by Antonin Barak to close out the game.
Inter was unable to respond in any way as its offense was lax and its defense was no where to be found. This started a two-match losing streak that moved Inter from first to third.
Coppa quarters vs. AC Milan
After taking their Milan rivals to the woodshed in October, Inter needed to snap its streak and move into the Coppa semifinals.
AC Milan was struggling even more than Inter at the time, but a goal in the 104th minute by Patrick Cutrone dashed Inter’s hopes of a Coppa trophy and ended the year with three straight losses.
January and February
Inter remained strongly in third at the end of the year and draws with Lazio and Fiorentina kept the Nerazzurri in the top four.
But, since the draw with Lazio, Inter rattled off five straight draws before beating Bologna Feb. 11.
April 8 at Torino
Inter escaped March in fourth overall after a 3-0 win against Hellas Verona and a draw with AC Milan in the second installment of the Derby d’Madonnina didn’t hurt (of course, it didn’t help either).
But, a late first half goal by Adem Ljajic coupled with continued inabilities of Inter’s offense to produce anything whatsoever sent the Nerazzurri down to fifth – a spot they occupied for the rest of the season.
April 28 vs. Juventus
Inter had a prime opportunity to deal the Old Lady a blow to its Scudetto chances and do themselves a favor in the process.
However, Vecino being sent off on a straight red card in the first half put the Nerazzurri in an immediate hole.
Icardi equalized in the 52nd minute and an own-goal by Andrea Barzageli put Inter up 2-1 midway through the second half. It looked as if Inter may pick up three points.
But, in the 87th minute, Juan Cuadrado drilled a shot off Milan Skriniar that tied the game and, two minutes later, Gonzalo Higuain headed home the winner to deny any points to Inter and any ground gained in the Champions League race.
May 12 vs. Sassuolo
Again, Inter was presented with an opportunity to move ahead of Lazio into fourth against a struggling Sassuolo at home.
But, Sassuolo scored first and Inter seemed to be thinking ahead more than about the game at hand.
A second goal in the 72nd minute by Domenico Berardi sealed the fate despite a later goal by Rafinha to keep Inter behind the 8-ball … and Lazio.
That takes us up to Sunday’s match at Lazio where the winner will play in the Champions League next season while the loser will play in the Europa League. A draw keeps Inter in the Europa League as Lazio is three points up on the Nerazzurri.
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