Antonio Conte

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Antonio Conte “fed up” with Inter Milan board’s “big mistakes”

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Antonio Conte laid much of the blame for Tuesday’s second-half collapse away to Borussia Dortmund at the feet of the Inter Milan board, claiming, “Big mistakes were made in planning this season,” and insisting he is “fed up of saying it.”

[ MORE: UCL roundup | Chelsea 4-4 Ajax | Liverpool 2-1 Genk ]

It was the second time this season that Inter have dominated the first half of a major clash in the UEFA Champion League, only to throw it all away in the second half and walk away empty-handed. In early October, Conte’s side held a 1-0 lead over Barcelona at the Camp Nou, but lost 2-1.

This time, a 2-0 lead over Dortmund turned into a 3-2 defeat, and that has Conte seeing red. In Conte’s mind, he doesn’t have a big enough, or deep enough, squad to compete on multiple fronts and against the quality of competition they face. He refused to tip-toe around the perceived issue — quotes from Football Italia:

“Big mistakes were made in planning this season. I am fed up of saying it.”

“It’s disappointing, but what can I say? They tell me that I should smile more on television. I should always say the same things, the growth process, taking it step by step, so just ask me some questions and I’ll try to answer.

“I don’t feel like even commenting on the second half, as there are too many alibis and I don’t want to create any more. I just hope this type of match clarifies things for those who need to understand. The lads are going at 100 kilometers per hour and I can only thank them for all they are doing during this period. They cannot give more than this.

“It irritates me and I hope that this defeat irritates my players too. We can do no more than to work and that’s what we’re doing. I am just fed up of saying the same things over and over, I hope a director comes here and says things instead.

“I don’t care about January or February. We should’ve planned this season out much, much better. We proved that we can trouble anyone if we are on form, but there are players who have played non-stop. I am fed up of saying it. You can take your conclusions from a second half like that.”

“We are Inter, so we must all look at ourselves and realize we are… actually, I was going to cause controversy again, but no, stop me talking now.

“I am really p—ed off, because we cannot do more than this. We’ve reached the limit.”

The most frustrating part for Conte, presumably, is that Juventus look genuinely beatable for the for the first time in nearly a decade. It’s as if they’re extending ever opportunity for someone — anyone — to knock them off their perch and take the title from them. Conte is beyond smart enough to recognize it, yet he doesn’t feel he’s been supported with the necessary means to do so, just as he’s wise enough to know Juve’s dip won’t last forever — maybe not even a second season — and this could very well be their best only chance.

The buzz is back at Inter Milan, on and off the field

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MILAN — The differences between the two Milan clubs could not be starker — on and off the field.

[ MORE: Liverpool fixture congestion presents serious conundrum ]

The clubs held their annual shareholders’ meeting almost simultaneously on Monday, but while Inter Milan congratulated itself on record revenue, AC Milan was reporting record losses.

Inter’s turnover grew by 20 percent in relation to last season, to $465 million, and has more than doubled since Chinese owners Suning Group took over in June 2016.

Financially-troubled Milan reported a deficit of $161.2 million — the worst in the club’s history — from its first season under the ownership of American hedge fund Elliott Management.

And while Milan is languishing in the middle of the standings, Inter is going toe-to-toe with eight-time defending champion Juventus at the top.

“Our constant improvement both on and off the field makes us very proud and gives us added incentive,” Inter CEO Giuseppe Marotta said. “Inter has laid solid foundations for the growth of the club in the sporting field.

“The choice of one of the world’s best coaches in Antonio Conte and his winning mentality, the strength of a close group, made up of many Italian players, will enable us to reach our objectives.”

[ MORE: Erling Braut Haaland drawing scouts from more than 20 clubs ]

The unity of the group is easy to see. Forward Romelu Lukaku took the squad out for dinner on Wednesday, and gave a speech thanking his teammates.

A win at Brescia the previous night had put Inter back at the top of the standings, albeit temporarily because Juventus also won (while the Nerazzuri were having their dinner) to move a point clear.

Inter’s goals in Tuesday’s 2-1 win were scored by Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, who are rapidly developing an impressive partnership.

The duo have scored 10 of Inter’s last 12 goals. Lukaku has netted seven times in Serie A since joining from Manchester United in the offseason for a club record transfer fee of about $73 million plus up to $15 million in bonuses.

Lukaku was just one of the players the club brought in as Inter invested heavily in the offseason. Inter said that expenditure explains its loss of $54 million.

Inter could invest more in January as it continues to battle in the Serie A, Champions League and Italian Cup, with Conte warning that his team can’t keep up if they play a match every three days on average.

Some of the players have appeared visibly fatigued and injuries to either Lukaku or Martinez could cost the team dearly.

“Conte can be worried when there are moments of difficulty,” Marotta said. “There have been injuries that have taken away players from us, but every member of the club knows that difficulties are a part of life.

“We look forward to the January transfer window with great optimism. We know that there are economic aspects to be respected, but we are ready to seize any opportunities that arise.”

Serie A roundup: Juventus, Inter Milan succumb unusual draws (video)

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Abnormal draws from Juventus and Inter Milan on the same matchday highlight Saturday’s Serie A action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Lecce 1-1 Juventus

With a couple of its stars resting – including Cristiano Ronaldo – Juventus traveled to Lecce to take on the recently-promoted club. Shockingly, the league leaders were stunned and walked out with only a point.

Powered by the Argentine duo of Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain, the Old Lady knocked, and knocked on the home side’s door. To be exact, Juventus took 15 shots in the first half, and even though the majority came inches from being on frame, only one resulted to be on target.

Close chances soon became a regular occurrence throughout the 90 minutes.

But early in the second half, Dybala finally broke the deadlock from the spot, following a hard foul on Miralem Pjanic on the edge of the 18-year-box. It was Juventus’ game to lose.

In a way, that’s exactly what happened when Lecce earned a penalty of their own only six minutes later. Marco Mancosu converted from 12 year out, putting the underdog leveled with the league’s most lucrative side.

Luckily for Maurizio Sarri and company, Parma’s two first-half goals were too much for Inter Milan to top, as the second-place side drew their first game of the season. Juventus, despite dropping two points on Saturday, remain one point ahead of Antonio Conte‘s Inter after nine games played.

With Ronaldo likely on the teamsheet, Juventus hosts Genoa midweek, while Inter Milan travel to Brescia.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Inter Milan 2-2 Lecce

Genoa 3-1 Brescia

Champions League wrap: Barcelona, Napoli hold group leads

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Antonio Conte‘s Inter Milan got a necessary win, while several other notable teams had a lot of work on their hands on the way to three points in the UEFA Champions League.

Lionel Messi set another record, Jesse Marsch’s Red Bull Salzburg put another scare into a big name, and both Lille and RB Leipzig puts difference-making wonder strikes on the board.


[ MORE: Genk 1-4 Liverpool | Ajax 0-1 Chelsea ]


Slavia Prague 1-2 Barcelona

Lionel Messi’s third minute goal didn’t send the Czech hosts running for cover, and Slavia Prague got a leveling goal through Jan Boril. It was deserved, too, with the hosts taking double the shots as their visitors when they made it 1-1. An own goal finished off the scoring in Prague.

Messi’s goal made him the first player to score in 15 Champions League tournaments. He’s good.

Red Bull Salzburg 2-3 Napoli

Jesse Marsch’s men know a bit about comebacks after last month’s memorable match in Liverpool, and Erling Braut Haland scored to make it 1-1 after Dries Mertens gave the favored visitors a lead. Haland answered another Mertens goal but the magic ran out for the hosts after Lorenzo Insigne provided the winner.

Lille 1-1 Valencia

Russian winger Denis Cheryshev looked like he’d see his goal stand up as a winner despite a late Valencia red card, but my goodness this equalizer from Jonathan Ikone:

Inter Milan 2-0 Borussia Dortmund

Make it six goals for Lautaro Martinez in 11 appearances for Inter Milan, who looked well-drilled at home under Antonio Conte. Roman Burki was sensational to keep the score 1-0, saving a penalty amongst several other timely interventions, but BVB couldn’t muster a goal. Antonio Candreva added the consolation marker.

Benfica 2-1 Lyon

Rafa Silva was in the right place to deposit a fourth minute goal, and Benfica rode the lead until Memphis Depay leveled in the 70th minute. Enter Pizzi, who scored with five minutes left to give Benfica a needed win. Last place Benfica is three points back of leaders RB Leipzig.

RB Leipzig 2-1 Zenit Saint-Petersburg

Yaroslav Rakitskiy gave the visitors a halftime lead against the run of play but Konrad Laimer leveled the score line and then — clear the deck — Marcel Sabitzer did this:

Champions League preview: Chelsea, Liverpool hit the road

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Frank Lampard has a selection headache amongst his wingers as he tries to figure out Chelsea’s best avenue to break down Ajax on Wednesday in the UEFA Champions League.

Youngsters Callum Hudson-Odoi and Christian Pulisic starred in the Blues’ weekend win, and Lampard also has Pedro and Willian available at Johan Cruyff Arena before a weekend visit to Burnley.

[ MORE: Dest choosing side this week ]

From ChelseaFC.com:

“Callum gave me that in his display from the start and Christian gave me that in his display coming on, and in terms of the wingers I have, Willian gave me that, Pedro gives me that so I have good selection problems when people come on and make a difference. That is what we are all about.

“The extra level that is the Champions League, the detail, the focus, concentration for 90 minutes, making the most of tiny moments, will be a test for all the young players, not just Callum.”

The good news for Pulisic in his bid to match wits with fellow USMNT (for now) player Sergino Dest is that he’s had experience on the UCL stage with Borussia Dortmund.

The other PL side in action is Liverpool, and the Reds will be expecting to get all three points in Belgium against Genk.

But Genk drew Napoli 0-0 at home on the second match day and the Reds will be wary of a slip-up.

“It’s a really good football-playing team,” said Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp. “They are organized and brave in their positioning. They don’t play with the pressing line too much but go for second balls, have speed and good midfielders and very active full-backs.”

Klopp will not have Trent Alexander-Arnold (illness) and Joel Matip (knee).

Other highlights…

— American manager Jesse Marsch hopes to lead Red Bull Salzburg to a home win over Napoli when he matches wits with Carlo Ancelotti.

Antonio Conte‘s Inter Milan could really use a result against tricky Borussia Dortmund in Italy.

UEFA Champions League Wednesday schedule

12:55 p.m. ET
Ajax v. Chelsea
RB Leipzig v. Zenit Saint-Petersburg

3 p.m. ET
Slavia Prague v. Barcelona
Red Bull Salzburg v. Napoli
Genk v. Liverpool
Inter Milan v. Borussia Dortmund
Lille v. Valencia
Benfica v. Lyon