🇮🇹 Advantage Inter! Can anyone stop their Scudetto charge?

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Padraig Whelan

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The last time there was a Milan derby of such magnitude in terms of the title race before Sunday, it was a decade ago.

On that occasion, it was the red and black side of the city who came out all guns blazing, cruising to a 3-0 win before going on to wrap up the Scudetto with ease.

History could be in line to repeat itself again, but it was the other side of Milan who plundered their way to a 3-0 victory this time and the title is theirs for the losing now.

It is a scoreline that may be a little flattering to the Nerazzurri, who switched off for extended periods either side of half-time.

Luckily, during those spells when Milan were on top, so too was Samir Handanović, who has had his struggles this season but rolled back the years to pull off a series of outstanding saves, including two incredible reflex rebuttals of Zlatan Ibrahimović.

And during the majority of the game when Inter were in control, they made the most of it, ruthlessly reaping the rewards from that unstoppable LuLa partnership in attack.

Lautaro Martínez continued his impressive recent form in big games by scoring twice, while Romelu Lukaku added a clinical third and provided the assist for the opener with a perfect cross.

When that pair click, there are few better. Certainly not in Serie A.

But it underlines how worried everyone should be about the Inter juggernaut that it isn’t just their devastating attacking duo who are clicking now.

Antonio Conte is even getting a tune out of Ivan Perišić, a man he sent to Bayern Munich last season because he felt would be unable to adapt to his system.

The Croatian was outstanding in the derby, giving the Rossoneri right flank endless headaches with his directness and energy. And he ended the game with an assist too, teeing up Lautaro’s second after a nice team move.

Even forgotten man Christian Eriksen, who some were concerned would leave last month after just a year, is now becoming an important figure in midfield.

And with a four-point gap opened up at the top of the table, it is becoming increasingly unlikely to see anyone overhauling them before the end of the campaign.

Their closest challengers, Milan, are now on the slide and look like a side who are starting to feel the effects of almost non-stop action for the past eight months.

That was acknowledged by Stefano Pioli, whose squad’s limitations outside of his preferred XI is now really being tested, while this derby defeat also exposed the glaring issues at centre-back that fans have highlighted for months.

Simon Kjaer and, more specifically, Alessio Romagnoli, are really creaking now. Milan brought in Fikayo Tomori in January. They have to use him before things get worse.

A win for Juventus on Monday night would move them back up to third but it is becoming harder with each passing week to make an argument for them winning a 10th straight title.

There looks to be too much ground for them to make up now, particularly with such little margin for error and when they are also juggling European commitments (something Inter don’t have to worry about) the adversity appears too much.

As for the other side perched at the top, Roma (who interestingly face Milan next), a sustained title challenge still looks well beyond their means at the moment.

Come May, we will likely be reflecting on this as the weekend the title was won.

And elsewhere …

  • There is now breathing space between the bottom three and the rest after Torino won a huge relegation six-pointer 1-0 at Cagliari. Good thing the Isolani didn’t give their coach a contract extension until 2023 just a few weeks ago as a bizarre show of faith …
  • Atalanta beat Napoli 4-2 (who have now lost four straight on the road) and incredibly had four different players on the scoresheet for the sixth time this season!
  • Lazio got back to winning ways with a 1-0 win over Sampdoria. Given their form, a Champions League upset against Bayern is far from out of the question

😱 Goal of the Weekend

Check out Piotr Zielinski’s volley for the visitors. Perfect technique.

🥇 Player of the Weekend

Two goals in a derby victory? It couldn’t be anyone else other than ‘El Toro’.