In what was the definition of a ‘danger game’ Inter hosted an in-form Genoa side who were among the form sides in the competition since the return of Davide Ballardini. Conte’s men responded in emphatic fashion - dominating the match from the first minute and finishing with a 3-0 win. Here are some takeaways from the match.
Inter Are Scaring Their Opponents
For years Inter fans have cried foul, as smaller clubs rested their big names when faced with a visit to Turin. The match was deemed unwinnable, and so it was best to give their players a few days rest to prepare for more achievable points in the future. It was incredibly frustrating for the teams trying to chase down the Bianconeri - even more so when the same minnows would arrive at San Siro with a full-strength side ready to die for a single point.
Yesterday, Inter fans experienced the other side. Genoa rested a number of key players for their upcoming derby against Sampdoria, making things just that little bit easier for Conte’s men. Inter were able to keep Genoa at arm's length without exerting too much energy and came up with the key second goal just as Il Grifone started to think an equalizer was possible.
Football is a physical game, but the importance of mentality can’t be underestimated. It seems now this is one area where the team finally has the clear edge over its opponents.
Good Starts Win Matches
As if their task wasn’t hard enough, conceding in the first minute was an absolute hammer blow to Genoa. Inter are set up perfectly to defend deep and attack on the counter, most side's best chance of taking a point will be to try and ‘out-Inter’ Inter. That’s not possible when you give Romelu Lukaku a chance to run 1 v 1 against your last defender.
From Inter’s point of view, we seem to have overcome the jitters that plagued the early part of the year. The side has always attacked well but was missing chance after chance early in games. This improved efficiency is another feather in the cap of Conte’s side. There is still room for improvement (Inter could well have been 3-0 up at the half), but the positive signs are there.
Quality From The Bench
Conte seems to have his set starting XI and a week between matches means that there is next to no need for rotation from now until season's end. While this is great news for the club, it does present the potential challenge of motivating those players who are not starting every match.
Conte made five subs today, and almost every one of them had a positive impact. Sanchez scored a goal which his efforts in recent months have well deserved. D’Ambrosio and Young kept the attacks coming down the wings with the former almost scoring a beauty himself. Vidal did enough to suggest he’s over his injury issues and Gagliardini, well, he didn’t make any glaring errors that he can sometimes do.
Importantly, the players all entered the pitch switched on and happy to play their role. No doubt there will be further injuries and suspensions, so it is imperative that Conte keeps the entire squad pulling in the right direction.
Suspensions on the Horizon
Barella, Brozovic, and Bastoni have all been one yellow-card from suspension since the Lazio match, and today was the first time I’ve seen one of them (Brozo) commit a foul that I thought might earn them a yellow. It has been an incredible display of patience and restraint from all three players that have been pivotal over the past month.
That said, I’m certain they’re all going to be suspended at some point between now and the end of the season. They’ll all be on their best behavior against Parma, but I wouldn’t be too surprised to see some bookings against either Atalanta or Bologna. Much like sending out a weaker side, deliberately getting suspended is the kind of thing that is frowned upon but is also a necessary evil to win the league.
Interestingly, Conte’s substitutions also revealed how seriously he is taking the Parma match. I don’t remember the last match where both Brozovic and Barella were off at the same time, but Eriksen was the only starting midfielder who finished the match today.
How Did Our Rivals Do?
A number of outlets were proclaiming that Milan out of the race (they’re not) and that Juve were Inter’s main rivals for the scudetto. Extra importance was placed on Inter’s clash with Genoa, as both Juve and Milan had tough fixtures against Verona and Roma respectively. While it wouldn’t have been a huge shock to see them both lose points, the two dropped by the Bianconeri are a welcome gift for Inter. We’re now at least seven points ahead of Pirlo’s men, but Milan’s win in Roma means the gap of four points (plus our better head to head) remains the same.
While we should not expect to see much of a change during the midweek matches (all three sides are heavy favorites), this weekend could be telling in the Scudetto race. Inter will host an ever-improving Atalanta, Juve will welcome Lazio to Turin, and Milan will visit Verona. That could present a real opportunity to build some extra-breathing space for Inter, heading into the international break.