Antonio Conte understands the value of a Premier League golden oldie more than any of his contemporaries. His Inter Milan side are on the cusp of ending Juventus’ nine-year stranglehold on the Scudetto thanks in no small part to Conte’s decision to rebuild the Nerrazzuri around a cluster of former EPL stars he believes are bigger, faster and more intense. Top scorer Romelu Lukaku’s 21 goals and 9 assists have propelled Inter Milan to the top of Serie A standings where they command a ten point advantage over neighbours AC Milan with just six matches to spare.
Lukaku is one of six former EPL players plying their trade at the Guiseppe Meazza – Matteo Darmian, Alexander Kolarov, Ashley Young, Christian Erikssen and Alexis Sanchez are all on Inter Milan’s books. Sanchez has chipped in with five goals and as many assists whereas Darmian has an equal number of goal involvements. Most are current (on loan) or former Manchester United players. After struggling to adjust, former Spurs midfield metronome Erikssen has fought his way into the starting line up. Only former Manchester City left back Kolarov, a curios off-season signing from AS Roma, has operated on the periphery.
Consecutive one-all draws at Napoli and Spezia have not dampened spirits at the San Siro club because closest rivals AC Milan surprisingly fell 1-2 at home to Sassuolo. Inter Milan’s are expected to get back to winning ways in their next two fixtures – Sunday’s home tie against Hellas Verona, who are struggling for form and an away fixture at bottom club Crotone. On the other hand, AC Milan’s next two matchdays feature games at Lazio and Juventus. Against such a background, it is easy to see why Italian pundits believe Conte will add this season’s Scudetto to the three he won with Juventus.
Driven by the 32-goal strike partnership of Luis Muriel and Duvan Zapata, Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta are right in the mix in the battle for Champions League positions as they showed great durability in dispatching Juventus 1-0 last weekend and have a winnable home tie against Bologna on Sunday. Champions Juventus will be hoping to build on Wednesday’s 3-1 victory over Parma when they travel to Florence to face Fiorentina whereas Gennaro Gattuso’s Napoli travel to a Torino side throwing kitchen sinks in the battle against relegation.
Genoa v Spezia, Parma v Crotone, Sassuolo v Sampdoria
Benevento v Udinese, Inter Milan v Hellas Verona, Fiorentina v Juventus, Cagliari v AS Roma, Atalanta v Bologna
Torino v Napoli, Lazio v AC Milan