The start of the new year has brought with it yet another meltdown at Inter, with the Nerazzurri staring self-destruction in the face against rivals AC Milan on Sunday.
It’s an all too familiar scene for fans of the Beneamata, who surely thought the worst was behind them after famously clinching a place in the Champions League thanks to Matias Vecino’s late winner against Lazio on the final day of the season.
Heck, it wasn’t even that long ago that Inter started their European campaign with wins over Tottenham and PSV, a sure sign that they were back to stay on the stage that mattered most.
Instead, a slow and steady decline in Europe was capped off with an embarrassing, yet unsurprising, defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt that has seen them sputter out of the Europa League, and things won’t get any easier when they face Milan in the Derby della Madonnina on Sunday.
The standings and statistics might suggest a tight contest, but you would be hard-pressed to find an Inter fan brimming with confidence heading into the match. Firmly poised for a top-four finish at the start of 2019, the Nerazzurri have turned an eight-point advantage over their city rivals into a one-point deficit thanks to just three wins in their last eight Serie A matches.
The heartache doesn’t end there though, as Milan’s revival has coincided with the arrival of a new idol in Krzysztof Piatek, while the former King of Milan – Mauro Icardi – remains on the sidelines with a divorce at season’s end all but certain. His absence has highlighted just how fragile the Nerazzurri truly are, as, despite the best efforts of starlet Lautaro Martinez, Luciano Spalletti’s men look nothing like the side that were on the brink of reaching the knockout stages of the Champions League.
It hasn’t helped that Radja Nainggolan has been sidelined through injury for the umpteenth time this season, or that Keita Balde has only just returned from his own fitness woes. However, when you’re forced to throw Andrea Ranocchia in attack – a move you wouldn’t even think of pulling off in Football Manager – you begin to see just how thin the threading holding this side together actually is.
This doom and gloom could all be for nought, as an unlikely hero could emerge and send Inter to another derby triumph and spearhead a late-season run that sees them comfortably secure a top-four finish.
However, this is Inter. Pazza Inter. If there’s a way for them to get in their own way, they’ll take it.
It’s why they failed to secure a win in their final four Champions League matches or failed to find the one goal they needed to beat PSV Eindhoven on the final match day that would have sent them through to the next round. It’s why they’ve slipped up against the likes of Torino, Bologna and Cagliari in 2019.
Milan will be more than happy to add to that woeful run on Sunday, as the Rossoneri’s last Derby win in Serie A dates back to January 2016. Luckily for them, they may not even need to be at their best given how Inter love to live up to their ‘Pazza’ billing.
It’s a way of being that has made Ranocchia playing striker somewhat romantic, but one that could also spell a Derby debacle come Sunday.