In each of the past eight years, Juventus have been crowned champions of Italy, a top-flight record. AS Roma and more recently, SSC Napoli have proven to be their nearest challengers but neither managed to topple the Turin-based from their perch. However, this season, some believe that their unprecedented run of winning consecutive league titles could come to an end, at the hands of the rejuvenated, Inter Milan.
Inter have finished in fourth place in Serie A in the last two campaigns with both being overseen by Luciano Spalletti. The Italian was controversially sacked in May and replaced by former Juventus manager, Antonio Conte. After Milan’s then captain and talisman, Mauro Icardi, was sent out on loan to PSG on transfer deadline day and influential midfielders Ivan Perisic and Radja Nainggolan were loaned to Bayern and Cagliari, respectively, there were question marks around how well the team would perform.
But people were forgetting how good a manager Antonio Conte is. He made Italy’s so-called “Worst team in 50 years,” the dark-horses of Euro 2016 and turned a Chelsea outfit lacking in confidence into one of the most solid and devastating Premier League sides we’ve seen, leading them to the Premier League title at a canter in his first season at the Blues. That’s without even mentioning his stints in Italy at club level. He managed to get Bari and Siena promoted from Serie B towards the beginning of his coaching career and won Juve three of those eight championships between 2012 and 2014.
Throughout his time as a manager, Conte has used his infamous three at the back system to bring him success and once again, has adapted it to the current crop of players at his disposal. Ex-Atletico Madrid stalwart; Diego Godin, commands the defence, talented and hard-working individuals such as Kwadwo Asamoah make up the midfield while the attack is led by lethal Argentinian forward, Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku, who moved to the Nerazzurri from Manchester United for a club-record £58.5m. One of Lukaku’s teammates in England, Alexis Sanchez, who made the same move that he did in the summer, even started to show signs of his word-class ability, before suffering an ankle injury on international duty with Chile.
Inter have picked up some impressive victories in the league already this term, beating neighbours AC Milan, 2-0, Lazio, by a goal to nil and Sampdoria, away from home, 3-1. Their only loss came to Juventus, succumbing to a narrow 2-1 defeat. In total, they’ve attained an impressive 22 points from nine games and only trail the champions by a single point – a sign of their improved consistency under their ultra-passionate boss. In Europe, Milan got off to a slow start in the Champions League, drawing 1-1 at home to Slavia Prague. They indicated a marked difference in their next match though, against Barcelona at the Nou Camp. Despite losing 2-1, they led the game through a Martinez goal for almost an hour, stifled the home side and looked dangerous on the counter. The brilliance of Suarez and Messi proved to be the difference in the end, but Conte and his charges received lots of praise for their tactical approach to the encounter.
In their most recent European game, they dispatched dangerous German opposition Borussia Dortmund, comfortably, winning 2-0 at the San Siro. That result leaves them second, level with Lucien Favre’s side on 4 points in the Group F table, three points behind leaders, Barca. If they can get a result at Signal Iduna Park in the return fixture, the Nerazzurri will be stood in good stead to achieve a place in the knockout rounds of the competition. With a squad that has plenty of depth and Sanchez expected back at the turn of the year, can Conte defy the odds once again and end his old club’s stranglehold of domestic silverware and make Inter a European powerhouse once again?