Udi­nese take aim at In­ter

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

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

JAVIER ZANETTI

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