Torino’s Hart in In­ter’s fir­ing line

New Straits Times - - Sport -

MI­LAN: The at­tack­ing threat of In­ter Mi­lan should present a se­vere test to Serie A-lov­ing Eng­land goal­keeper Joe Hart as his side Torino host the on form vis­i­tors to­mor­row.

With 15 goals from their past three league out­ings, In­ter’s bid for a top three fin­ish and a re­turn to the Cham­pi­ons League for the first time since 2012 is tak­ing shape.

But Ste­fano Pi­oli’s men re­main six points be­hind Napoli in the third and last Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fy­ing spot and the coach said on Thurs­day: “Torino have some top class play­ers, so we have to be wary.

“We have to take things one game at a time and try to keep win­ning un­til the end of the sea­son.”

Hart joined Torino on a sea­son­long loan deal from Manch­ester City after be­ing re­jected by coach Pep Guardi­ola and has con­ceded 42 of the 46 goals shipped so far this cam­paign.

Yet the 29-year-old re­mains a hugely pop­u­lar fig­ure in the for­mer Ital­ian cap­i­tal and seems in no hurry to re­turn to Eng­land, de­spite Guardi­ola af­firm­ing Hart “re­mains a City player” ear­lier this week.

“I’m truly grate­ful to the fans for every­thing they’re giv­ing me,” Hart told me­dia at a spon­sors’ event in Turin on Wed­nes­day.

“I will take that into ac­count when it comes to con­sid­er­ing my fu­ture, but for now I’m fo­cused on Toro and what I need to do.”

At 31 points be­hind lead­ers Ju­ven­tus and 15 points off the clos­est Europa League place, Torino have lit­tle to play for over the re­main­ing 10 fix­tures.

But the ‘Granata’ could throw a span­ner in the works for In­ter, who — after a five-year ab­sence — are des­per­ate to con­tend the com­pe­ti­tion they won in 2010 as part of a mem­o­rable tre­ble un­der Jose Mour­inho.

Even be­fore kick­off, emo­tions will be run­ning high.

A for­mer free-kick spe­cial­ist with Lazio, Mi­ha­jlovic played out his ca­reer with In­ter be­fore be­gin­ning his coach­ing ca­reer as an as­sis­tant to Roberto Mancini with the Ner­az­zurri.

Mi­ha­jlovic also coached In­ter’s city ri­vals AC Mi­lan be­fore be­ing sacked by the Ros­soneri in April 2016.

There’s also the small mat­ter of Maxi Lopez and Mauro Icardi. For­merly best friends while play­ing at Sam­p­do­ria, the Ar­gen­tini­ans have been at war since Icardi ran off with Lopez’s wife Wanda Nara, and the cou­ple’s two chil­dren.

On pre­vi­ous meet­ings, Torino striker Lopez has re­fused to even look at Icardi at the pre-match hand­shake, let alone shake his hand.

Al­though Icardi hit a hat-trick in a 7-1 rout of Ata­lanta last week to take his sea­son tally to 20, a slim­line Lopez hit one in a 3-1 re­verse at Lazio last time out — and Torino striker An­drea Belotti is lead­ing the league on 22 strikes.

With In­ter away, in­jury-rav­aged Mi­lan host Genoa at the San Siro look­ing to main­tain their bid for a Europa League place.

Vin­cenzo Mon­tella’s men are sev­enth, four points be­hind In­ter and des­per­ate not to suf­fer a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive de­feat to Genoa after a 3-0 up­set last Oc­to­ber.

Mon­tella will be with­out in­spi­ra­tional Span­ish play­maker Suso, striker Car­los Bacca and de­fender Ig­nazio Abate, all through in­jury.

Ju­ven­tus, fresh from qual­i­fy­ing for the Cham­pi­ons League quar­ter-fi­nals with a 3-0 ag­gre­gate win over Porto, are ex­pected to cruise to the three points at Sam­p­do­ria to­mor­row.

As they bid for a record sixth con­sec­u­tive scud­etto, a win would leave Mas­sim­ilino Al­le­gri’s men 11 points ahead of Roma, in sec­ond, be­fore they host Sas­suolo later in the day.

TO­DAY: Torino v In­ter Mi­lan, AC Mi­lan v Genoa; TO­MOR­ROW: Em­poli v Napoli, Ata­lanta v Pescara, Bologna v Chievo, Cagliari v Lazio, Cro­tone v Fiorentina, Sam­p­do­ria v Ju­ven­tus, Udi­nese v Palermo, Roma v Sas­suolo. AFP

Joe Hart

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