Last weekend’s fixture between Inter and Lazio brought back memories of a breathtaking climax to the end of the previous campaign. The final match of 2017/18 effectively became a playoff for a Champions League place between the two sides, the Rome-based club slight favourites going into the encounter three points ahead of their Milanese rivals and playing at home too.
Simone Inzaghi’s men just needed a point to ensure they would reach the elite competition, and at half-time they seemed to be cruising as they went in for the break at 2-1 up. Yet the Nerazzurri have earned a reputation for striking late on, and sure enough they would score twice inside the final twelve minutes to finish in that highly-coveted fourth spot on head-to-head record alone.
Just five months later and a lot has changed already, Inter having signed a wealth of quality players in the summer transfer window. They would add Croatia World Cup star Sime Vrsaljko to their contingent of his compatriots as well as having captured Radja Nainggolan from AS Roma and Kwadwo Asamoah from Juventus.
A slow start brought much criticism for Coach Luciano Spalletti, 1-0 defeats to lowly Sassuolo and Parma making many begin to consider whether the Tuscan tactician was the right man for the job. However, Inter have picked themselves up and are seemingly now well in their stride, leading some to even mention them as title contenders.
“The league is open,” full-back Vrsaljko told Sky Italia. “We got it wrong at the start and we’ve recovered well now, but we can still improve. We’re really strong, we can go far. We know we’re strong but it’s easy to talk. It’s a long season, we’ll take it one game at a time and see where we end up.”
Of course, Lazio were out for revenge last weekend for that crushing blow dealt by Spalletti’s men when they met at Stadio Olimpico last May, but this time around things were very different. A Mauro Icardi brace followed up by a superb effort from Marcelo Brozovic saw Inter score three times once again, but this time the away side managed to keep a clean sheet.
“Anyone who wants to leave things the way they are had better get out of the way,” the Nerazzurri boss declared to reporters after the match. “The President has spoken clearly. These are the ambitions of Inter, to have this attitude and control the game at the Stadio Olimpico against a very impressive Lazio.
“The results might not always be like this, but the approach has to be for Inter.”
Yet – for the moment at least – results are going Inter’s way. Sitting in third place in Serie A behind Juventus and Napoli and with six points from three Champions League group stage matches during their first outing in the competition since 2011/12. Next up, they face a home encounter versus struggling Genoa, a great chance not only to keep themselves in the Scudetto race, but to retain their high levels of confidence.
A positive performance on Saturday afternoon will set this side up well for a midweek home clash versus Barcelona, also in the awareness that December will certainly become a true test in the league. After facing Tottenham at Wembley on November 28th, Inter will play consecutive away matches versus AS Roma and Juventus, and it is during this period when supporters will find out whether the San Siro outfit are the real deal this season.