Inter and AC Milan fuel confidence ahead of Champions League derby
While Naples is still in championship frenzy after winning the third national title in club history, the rest of Italy is slowly getting into the swing of European soccer.
Indeed, next week no fewer than five Italian clubs will try to reach the final battle in the three European tournaments: on Wednesday, a very special Derby della Madonnina is scheduled at San Siro between AC Milan and Internazionale with the final of the Champions League at stake.
On Thursday, AS Roma (against Bayer Leverkusen) and Juventus (against Sevilla) play in the semifinals of the Europa League. And in the Conference League, Fiorentina (against FC Basel) will take a shot at finally winning another European final.
Italy rules in Europe this season. And that tastes like more.
Battle for European tickets flares up
On the very weekend before those top European fixtures, the battle for next year’s European tickets flared up in Serie A. As a result, the battle for a spot in the top four – normally good for the Champions League – is raging.
Especially now that number two Lazio today overcame AC Milan (2-0) and Internazionale settled with AS Roma by the same figures. As a result, the difference between number two Lazio (64 points) and number seven AS Roma (58 points) is only six points.
Both Internazionale and AC Milan tanked confidence ahead of the first Champions League semifinal next Wednesday. Internazionale was last best in 2010, for AC Milan it was even longer ago (2007).
Inter was too strong in Rome 2-0 to AS Roma. Roma waited before halftime and were punished for that attitude after half an hour by Federico Dimarco, who slipped in a fine cross from Denzel Dumfries at the far post.
Only after that tick did coach José Mourinho’s team (which has never lost a home game in the month of May) seek the attack. And just after halftime Roger Ibañez had the 1-1 on his shoe, but goalkeeper André Onana got his fingers against it.
In the closing stages, things got worse for Ibañez. Shortly after Stefan de Vrij made his appearance for Inter as a substitute, Romelu Lukaku mercilessly punished fumbles by the Brazilian defender.
Then Lautaro Martínez also hit the crossbar on behalf of Inter.
Milan too strong for Lazio
Earlier in the afternoon, AC Milan won surprisingly easily over number two Lazio, yet there were worries afterwards for coach Stefano Pioli. Indeed, Portuguese star player Rafael Leão dropped out after only 11 minutes with an injury to his thigh.
Algerian Ismaël Bennacer took advantage of frivolous Lazio defending after seventeen minutes, and within the half hour Theo Hernández doubled the margin. The Frenchman received the ball on his own half and, when he was not really tackled, decided to fire just twenty yards from goal. The result was to be welcomed.
In the second half, which was frequently interrupted for injury treatments, Lazio was far below par in attack. The 3-0 was close a couple of times though: Junior Messias shot just wide and substitute Malick Thiaw headed the ball over goalkeeper Ivan Provedel’s goal.
The win over Lazio was particularly welcome for Milan after four draws in the last five games, but Inter’s win leaves the club stuck in fifth place for now.
Sunday (12:30 p.m.) also features the subtopper between Juventus and Atalanta Bergamo.