Walter Mazzarri thought his team looked “sluggish” and “lazy” on Sunday. Juventus has a way of doing that to you. Still, having drawn with Italy’s leaders early this season at the San Siro, Inter Milan’s boss has reason to hope the Nerazzurri would give provide more resistance in the season’s second Derby d’Italia. Perhaps last weekend’s end to Juventus’s 12-match winning streak could be the first part of a steep fall to earth.
Apparently not. After drawing last week at Lazio, Juventus were back to their old, overwhelming selves against their rivals, with goals from Stephane Leichsteiner, Giorgio Chiellini, and Arturo Vidal (11th of the season) leaving the Bianconeri up three in the 57th minutes. Rolando would put home a consolation goal in the 71st minute, but by then Inter hopes of staunching their wounds had faded. Winners of only one of their last 10, Mazzarri’s side was out-classed by Juventus, who claimed a 3-1 victory.
The result pushed Antonio Conte’s team nine clear of second place Roma, who had their match against Parma rained out. Given Juve’s widely considered locks to claim their third title, the more interesting effects concern Inter. Seemingly in a free fall since beating Livorno in early November, the Nerazzurri have given fifth place back to Hellas Verona despite Verona having just snapped their own three-match losing streak (with a 2-1 win a Sassuolo). Tied on points with seventh-place Torino, Inter are now in danger of missing out on European soccer for a second straight season.
They have their excuses, especially given Sunday’s team. Esteban Cambiasso was missing from midfield, out two weeks with an injury. New signing Hernanes wasn’t available. Fredy Guarin looks destined for four months in limbo after failing to move in the transfer window, while Diego Milito and Andrea Ranocchia are no longer starters (Milito hampered by injuries). Talents like Hugo Campagnaro, Yuto Nagatomo, and Samir Handanovic could be key parts of a Champions League-caliber team, but at other places in Mazzarri’s starting XI, the team doesn’t look much better than the side Andrea Stramaccioni allowed to drift to ninth last season.
“This game was very simple tactically,” Mazzarri said after Sunday’s loss. “[T]here were duels all over the pitch. In those situations the players most accustomed to being at the top and to winning will win the duels.”
Inter hasn’t been used to being at the top since the last days of José Mourinho. Now their character maybe more like last year’s mid-table side than a team that won the treble four years ago.
Their winter slide could be a slump, but it could also be Inter’s regression to the mean. Although their first meeting with Juventus hinted Mazzarri was capable of engineering a quick turnaround, the season’s second Derby d’Italia painted a much different picture. Mazzarri is going to have to quickly (and successfully) integrate Hernanes if Inter’s going to return to Europe.
Elsewhere in Italy
- Cagliari 1, Fiorentina 0 – La Viola had a chance to take advantage of a struggling Napoli, but thanks to Mauricio Pinella’s first half penalty kick (a chance given by Facundo Roncaglia) and an inability to generate more than three shots on goal, Vincenzo Montella’s team stays three points back of Italy’s last Champions League spot.
- Bologna 0, Udinese 2– Toto Di Natale and Nico López goals help end Udinese’s four-match losing streak, lifting the Coppa semifinalists six points clear of the drop.
- AC Milan 1, Torino 1 – Clarence Seedorf’s team still can’t convert possession into goals. Despite holding 62 percent of the ball and outshooting their guests 23-6, Milan couldn’t build on Adil Rami’s 49th minute equalizer.
- Chievo 0, Lazio 2 – Edy Reja keeps his team climbing up the table, with the Aquile successfully responding to Hernanes’ departure with goals from Antonio Candreva and Keita.
- Catania 3, Livorno 3 – Two Innocent Emeghara goals and three Livorno leads weren’t enough to put away the league’s bottom dwellers, with goals from Gonzalo Bergessio, Pablo Barrientos, and Sergio Almirón giving Catania their 15th point of the season.
- Atalanta 3, Napoli 0 – The weekend’s surprise result saw a series of partenopei errors give German Denis two goals and Maxi Moralez Atalanta’s third. While it was aberrational, the result was also Napoil’s worst of the year, one that leaves Rafa Benítez’s side 15 points back of league-leading Juventus.
- Sassuolo 1, Verona 2 – Luca Toni sealed the game in the 86th minute, providing what appeared to be insurance for an opening own goal from Thomas Manfredini. When Antonio Floro Flores scored in stoppage time, Toni’s goal proved the winner, driving Hellas Verona fifth.