When the final whistle blew in Rome last Sunday, it was clear that Inter’s slim Scudetto dream was over, a dream that was cultivated despite several ups and downs during the season.
Further confirmation came through Antonio Conte’s lamentable words which were arguably the result of low morale within the team.
However, there was still something important at stake for the Nerazzurri – grabbing second spot for the first time since 2011 would probably be the only tangible evidence to mark an improvement compared to the previous campaign. In this respect, their home meeting against Fiorentina was crucial.
Stats don’t lie, but they’re not always fully representative of the truth. According to numbers, Inter not only have amassed more points at this stage of the season than in the whole previous Serie A campaign, but they’ve also lost just four games, after tasting defeat nine times in Luciano Spalletti’s last year at the helm.
However, a general feeling that Inter have not met expectations still remains. This is certainly due to the brilliant start to the season they have had under Conte, but also to their tendency to fall short when things seem to be in their grasp.
Inter have won just one of the head-to-head games they’ve played against the other three Scudetto challengers, but in the latter part of the season they’ve also failed to take advantage of a seemingly comfortable match schedule, so missing a chance to pile up points and build a gap between them and their rivals, especially when much tougher opponents await.
Against Fiorentina the Nerazzurri showed a good attitude and proactively tried to take control of the match, but were frustrated by Riccardo Terracciano’s multiple saves and their own lack of precision from the likes of Romelu Lukaku, who wasted at least two golden opportunities to find the opener.
Overall, it is fair to say that it was an unlucky game for the Conte’s outfit, but one that once again highlighted lack of solutions that can make an impact when a match is more balanced. As a result, the Nerazzurri drew at home with Fiorentina for the first time since 1996 and, most importantly, were part of a scoreless draw for only the second time this season, after their 0-0 result against Roma in December at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza.
Inter now sit third, one point behind Atalanta, an opponent they’ll face in the Serie A final round, meaning that, if the gap between the sides doesn’t increase, they could have one last chance to show that their improvements are not limited to sheer stats but also include mental strength and maturity.
Fiorentina were sitting back most of the time, notably during the first half, but the Giuseppe Iachini’s side never looked in total disarray, as they showcased a solid defensive trio in Giuseppe Pezzella, Martin Caceres and Nikola Milenkovic.
Their stamina and constant aggressiveness proved decisive as Inter’s strengths started to wane, allowing the Viola to snatch a draw that marks their sixth unbeaten game, a feat they had last achieved in October 2019.
The remaining three matches will present Fiorentina with the opportunity to finish in Serie A’s top 10, which would certainly be a significant achievement looking at both last season and the troubled start they had under Vincenzo Montella in the current campaign.