As we approach the final quarter of the 2018/19 Serie A season, Inter MIlan find themselves with only one objective: secure qualification for the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League. Despite everything that has gone on, the team finds themselves in a strong position to reach this goal with everything in their own hands.
Inter are currently 3rd on 53 points, two points in front of Milan on 51. Further back are Roma (47), and Lazio (45, albeit with a game in hand). Atalanta (45) and Torino (44) round out the top 8. Inter are seven points behind Napoli – a challenging gap to make up in 10 matches.
Of all the teams in the race for the Champions League. It is widely accepted that Inter have the toughest run home. Their fixtures are as follows:
- Home v Lazio (March 31)
- Away v Genoa (April 3)
- Home v Atalanta (April 7)
- Away v Frosinone (April 14)
- Home v Roma (April 20)
- Home v Juventus (April 27)
- Away v Udinese (May 5)
- Home v Chievo (May 12)
- Away v Napoli (May 19)
- Home v Empoli (May 26)
Let’s take a closer look at some of those matches:
Vs Empoli, Udinese and Frosinone
While Chievo should already be relegated by the time Inter face them in Rd 36, that may not be the case for the above mentioned sides. These three currently occupy three of the bottom five places in the standings and are a genuine chance to be relegated. None of these teams should scare Inter on paper, but there is nothing more dangerous than a side fighting for survival. These certainly will not be the comfortable wins many fans will expect. The only positive, however, is that these clubs may be in positions where they simply must win – encouraging them to attack, rather than sitting ten men behind the ball.
Many Interisti will look for this clash even before the Milan derby when the fixtures are released. Juventus have won Serie A, but Inter will be eager to send a message to their rivals in front of a packed San Siro. Juve are still fighting for the Champions League, but will need to overcome Ajax to progress past the quarter finals.
If this happens, then the Derby D’Italia will be held a mere four days before the Bianconeri’s 1st Semi Final. Given their current obsession with the competition, I would guess it is likely that we may face a weakened Juve – significantly increasing our chances of taking home three points.
Vs Lazio and Roma
For me, these are the two most important games. I’m tempted to throw Atalanta in too, although I think the eight point advantage we currently hold over them is too much. Inter face Lazio straight after the international break in a match which could give the Nerazzurri a huge advantage over the Biancocelesti.
Eight points, plus a superior head-to-head should be enough to draw a line through one threat to our CL qualification. It won’t be easy, however, with Lazio in some great form these past few weeks.
Following on from that, Inter face Roma in Round 33 in a match with potentially similar repercussions. If we managed to go into the match maintaining our six point lead, then this presents another chance to eliminate a competitor and all but secure CL qualification. It’s hard to know what to expect against Roma, but they have tended to turn up in big matches and have taken points from their last two visits to the San Siro against us. Ranieri will look to improve the side over the break and have them firing.
(I’ve highlighted their three biggest challenges)
- Milan – Sampdoria (A), Udinese (H), Juventus (A), Lazio (H), Parma (A), Torino (A), Bologna (H), Fiorentina (A), Frosinone (H), SPAL (A)
- Roma – Napoli (H), Fiorentina (H), Sampdoria (A), Udinese (H), Inter (A), Cagliari (H), Genoa (A), Juventus (H), Sassuolo (A)
- Lazio – Inter (A), Spal (A), Sassuolo (H), Udinese (H), Milan (A), Chievo (H), Sampdoria (A), Atalanta (H), Cagliari (A), Bologna (H), Torino (A)
Looking at each of these, I’m not that convinced that Inter has a significantly tougher run home than any of our direct rivals. If anything, we have the advantage of the head-to-head home matches against the Romans. Winning each of those would mean that Lazio and Roma would need to collect nine and ten more points (respectively) than Inter which, given their fixtures, seems unlikely. There are some very challenging fixtures for all three sides, whilst Milan and Lazio will also still be in the running for the Coppa Italia.
So there you have it. Inter are currently five points clear of the Europa League, and in complete control of their own destiny. The side should recover Keita Balde, Radja Nainggolan and (by the looks of it) even Mauro Icardi, and be able to face the remaining 10 rounds with absolute confidence.
What do you think? Post your comments below!