It's getting crowded up there. Five teams within eight points with eight games left. No natural selection: instead of reducing the number of teams involved in the title race, the current season's pattern seems to be going in the opposite direction. AC Milan lost in Palermo 1-0, while all the closest rivals won - Inter defeated Lecce 1-0; same scoreline for Lazio against Cesena; Cavani, sorry, Napoli beat Cagliari 2-1; Udinese edged out Catania 2-0. With eight games still to play the Serie A table says AC Milan 62, Inter 60, Napoli 59, Udinese 56 and Lazio 54. Five teams within eight points with 24 points available.
I have never considered Napoli and Lazio as serious contenders and I maintain my view despite the fact Partenopei are only three points from the top spot. Napoli's fortunes are too much Lavezzi related - without him not even Cavani finds the net, with him they can't do more than what they are doing now. So I do not see Napoli as a dangerous rival for AC Milan and Inter.
The only real threat from behind can come from Udinese, whose football is [by far] the most exciting and dynamic of the whole Serie A. But Bianconeri's lack of experience with handling top-flight expectations can limit their chances more than the current six point gap from the top.
The most obvious choice is between AC Milan and Inter with only two points between Rossoneri and Nerazzurri, Inter have the chance to reach the top by winning the next derby, which will be played on April 2, with one point advantage.
Inter won the Banana skin game, as our Sam introduced the match against Lecce. After Munich there was a danger of a lack of adrenaline. But the team managed to get the expected result thanks to a Pazzini's demonstration of skill and opportunism at the minute 52. An important win [still to be seen if decisive] sealed in final minutes with a good save by Julio Cesar.
Certainly not an exciting game to watch but it offered at least three good advices to Leonardo.
The first one is that putting too many forwards doesn't guarantee you more goals. In fact chances vs Lecce were at premium. Midfield was slow, too exposed and too distant to send the right balls to the attacking trio. One more midfielder in, one forward out. No 4-2-1-3 against AC Milan.
The second is that Christian Chivu's favourite position is certainly as centre-back, where he used to play at Ajax and Roma and where he played against Lecce to replace Ranocchia. As Lucio was sanctioned by Orsato with a yellow card which will cost him the derby, the former Ajax skipper must be the first choice to play alongside Ranocchia. No Cordoba no Materazzi.
The third is that playing so slow can be fatal. No pace and no pressing to face and even the very predictable AC Milan side defeated at Palermo and eliminated by Tottenham in the UEFA Champions League can suddenly look great again.
PS Schalke lost against Bayer Leverkusen in Bundesliga. Inter's next rival in the CL's quarter-finals is not the toughest opponent but not even the minnows depicted by many.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Giampaolo Pazzini. Inter needed a win to arrive at the derby within 'winning distance', he made sure they got it.
Serie A 2010-11 - Day 30
Inter: Julio Cesar; Maicon, Lucio, Chivu, Zanetti; Cambiasso, Thiago Motta; Sneijder (84' Kharja); Pandev (73' Coutinho), Pazzini, Eto'o (93' Stankovic). Coach: Leonardo
Lecce: Rosati; Tomovic (94' Donati), Ferrario, Fabiano, Brivio (90' Piatti); Olivera, Vives, Giacomazzi (83' Jeda), Bertolacci, Mesbah; Corvia. Coach: De Canio
Goal: Pazzini 52'
Yellow cards: Thiago Motta, Chivu, Lucio; Giacomazzi, Tomovic, Rosati
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