Udinese take aim at Inter
INTER MILAN host Udinese in the crunch clash of the weekend in Serie A with both teams looking to prove a point in vastly contrasting seasons.
Inter have largely disappointed this term having started the campaign as title favourites alongside neighbours and bitter rivals AC Milan.
A torrid start saw them win only two and lose five of their opening nine games and left them struggling to stay above the relegation zone.
But having strung two wins together for the first time this season, thanks to substitute Luc Castaignos’s late winner at Siena last weekend, Inter are now hoping to start climbing up the table.
They trail league- leaders Juventus by 12 points but have a game in hand, and captain Javier Zanetti says that Inter just have to busy themselves with winning matches, rather than chasing the deficit.
“Juventus are top because that’s where they deserve to be. They’re doing very well and so far have been the most consistent (team),” said Zanetti.
“We let the critics talk, we have to try game by game to win as many as possible.
“Everything can happen, we know it will be very complicated and difficult but we have to try.
“We need to look to make up ground and then we’ll see at the end where we finish. I hope as soon as possible that we return to being in the hunt as we have been in the last seven years of great success.
“As I’ve already said, Juve deserve to be where they are, Milan have put a good run together, Napoli have maybe paid for being invovled in the Champions League, while we started with a lot of difficulties.
“Now, slowly, we’re recovering and it’s up to us to find consistency and, most of all, to get results.”
One team Zanetti didn’t mention was Udinese, who are third in Serie A, two points behind Juve and level with Milan. Although he may not be talking about them as title challengers, Zanetti recognises the dangers they pose.
“We’ll need to play a great match because we’re coming up against a team in great form who’ve been playing together for many years, who have a very intelligent coach and they’ll definitely cause us problems,” he added.
Udinese’s gameplan is simple and is based around a solid defence – it’s the best in the league and Inter have conceded almost three times as many goals – and an effective counterattack that exploits the speed of top scorer Antonio Di Natale.
Udinese played in the Europa League in midweek, drawing 0-0 at Rennes, but gave Di Natale the night off.
Coach Francesco Guidolin, who has repeatedly written off his side’s chances of pushing for honours, says they must concentrate on playing well.
“We were unlucky (against Rennes) but if we keep creating chances and play well then the goals and results will look after themselves,” he said.
Juve host second- frombottom Cesena and they will have noted their opponents have recovered from a 10-game losing streak to win two in a row.
Fourth-placed Lazio take on Novara, who are in the relegation zone, on Monday while second-placed Milan travelled to Genoa last night.
Napoli, fresh from blowing a two-goal lead to draw 3-3 with Juve on Tuesday, are at home to last-placed Lecce with coach Walter Mazzarri warning his players not to be too focussed on next week’s Champions League clash with Villarreal.
Napoli have been inconsistent this season, losing to Catania, Chievo and Parma while beating Inter, and Manchester City. – SAPA-AFP
ANTONIO DI NATALE