Inzaghi says Inter cannot end Milan's Scudetto hopes as derby weekend arrives

By Sports Desk February 04, 2022

Simone Inzaghi scoffed at the idea Inter might kill off Milan's title hopes in Saturday's derby, as he claimed even Juventus remain in the Scudetto hunt.

A victory for Inter would move them seven points clear of Milan, while also having the advantage of a game in hand.

Inzaghi's Inter will be the home side at the San Siro stadium the teams share, and the Nerazzurri lead the way at the top of Serie A after losing just one of their opening 22 games.

It would be hard to see Milan coming back from defeat to their great rivals, but Inzaghi is not discounting the prospect.

Asked if three points for Inter would count out Milan, Inzaghi said: "I don't think so. There are another 15 matches to go and we all saw what happened in the first half of the season. We were seven points behind and drew the derby and still managed to close the gap."

Milan made a flying start to the season but were reeled in, with 2021-22 carrying distinct echoes of how the 2020-21 campaign panned out.

Then, it was Antonio Conte pulling the strings as Inter charged through to capture the title, and now it is Inzaghi's turn, with a first Scudetto of his coaching career beckoning.

He triumphed in Serie A as a player with Sven-Goran Eriksson's double-winning Lazio in 1999-2000, and is not getting ahead of himself this time.

"It's an important game and we know how much it means to the fans," Inzaghi said of derby day. "But there are 45 points and a lot of football to play before we can draw any conclusions.

"I played in lots of derbies and there's never a favourite. Tomorrow will be no different: it's a game that will be won by fine margins. It will come down to our motivation."

Inter have lost only one of their last 11 Serie A meetings against Milan. That defeat was a 2-1 setback in October 2020, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring twice in the opening 16 minutes. Inter have won six and drawn four of those 11 games, with Milan keeping a clean sheet just once.

Most signs point to Inter giving up no ground to their city rivals this weekend. Their last Serie A home defeat was that 2020 loss to Milan, and they are undefeated in 28 games since in the competition when hosting.

Inzaghi won just three of 10 Serie A games against Milan while serving as head coach at Lazio, and his Inter side drew 1-1 with Stefano Pioli's Rossoneri earlier this season.

For obvious reasons, Inzaghi would dearly love a win this time. Napoli and Milan both enter the weekend as Inter's closest challengers, four points back and having played one game more than Inzaghi's men.

Despite this position of strength, Inzaghi said the title race was "all still open".

"Besides Milan and Napoli, there's Atalanta and Juventus, who are very good teams," Inzaghi told a news conference, according to Inter's website.

"Juventus have been doing really well in the last two months and they've made some great signings. All of the teams down to Juventus could win the Scudetto."

Juventus raided Fiorentina last week to sign Dusan Vlahovic, the exciting Serbian forward who hit 33 goals in Serie A in 2021, and that should fortify Massimiliano Allegri's fifth-placed Bianconeri for a push into the Champions League places.

Juve are 11 points off the top, also having played 23 games to Inter's 22. Atalanta are a point better off than Juve, occupying fourth spot.

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  • France v Poland: Deschamps remains calm despite Les Bleus' struggle for goals France v Poland: Deschamps remains calm despite Les Bleus' struggle for goals

    France manager Didier Deschamps says he is "not concerned" with his side's recent struggles in front of goal ahead of their final Euro 2024 group game against Poland on Tuesday.

    Les Bleus are all but through to the knockout stages of the European Championships, sitting joint-top of Group D with four points, but need to avoid defeat to ensure progression.

    Yet France's only goal at the tournament so far has come courtesy of Maximilian Wober turning into his own net in the opening 1-0 victory over Austria, before a goalless draw with the Netherlands on Friday.

    France failed to score with any of their 15 shots in a wasteful display against the Oranje as Deschamps went without Kylian Mbappe, who was only fit enough for the bench due to his broken nose.

    Asked about Les Bleus' profligate showings, Deschamps responded: "I am not concerned. It is just the name of the game.

    "Sometimes you have countless chances and don't hit the back of the net, and sometimes it is the other way round.

    "I would be worried if there were not any chances. Efficiency at high-level football is important, and it is something we can work on.

    On Mbappe's fitness, Deschamps added: "Everything is going in the right direction; he is recovering from the shock, there is the haematoma part which will diminish each day, he will get used to his mask, which modifies the vision a little. But he is fine."

    Poland became the first side to be eliminated from the tournament following France's draw, after they lost their opening matches to the Netherlands (2-1) and Austria (3-1).

    They have faced their own problems without Robert Lewandowski, who missed the start of the tournament due to a hamstring injury before appearing from the bench against Austria.

    "We are depressed by this result, but we still have one more game in our group, and we need to put our best foot forward and try to win three points," Lewandowski said.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    France – N'Golo Kante

    N'Golo Kante was a surprise inclusion in Deschamps' squad for the tournament after a two-year absence from the national side, but his performances so far have earned him the Player of the Match award in their opening two games.

    The midfielder has made more major tournament appearances without losing than any other European player, with France unbeaten in all 17 games he has played across the Euros and World Cup (W12 D5).

    Poland – Piotr Zielinski

    Poland may be out of the tournament but will be desperate to go down fighting, with Piotr Zielinski again expected to be key here.

    Zielinski has been directly involved in more shots than any other Poland player at Euro 2024 (11 – seven shots, four chances created), as well as completing the most passes for his side (68) across the first two rounds.

    MATCH PREDICTION: FRANCE WIN

    This will only be the third meeting between France and Poland in a major tournament, and the first at the Euros. Poland won a third-place play-off match 3-2 at the 1982 World Cup, while France triumphed 3-1 in the round of 16 at the 2022 World Cup.

    Including all competitions, France are unbeaten in their last eight meetings with Poland (W4 D4), since losing a friendly match 4-0 in August 1982.

    Les Bleus simply need to avoid defeat to qualify for the knockout stages, and they are unbeaten in their eight games in the group stage at the Euros under Deschamps (W4 D4), with their last such defeat coming on MD 3 versus Sweden at Euro 2012 (2-0), under Laurent Blanc.

    Meanwhile, Poland have lost both of their games at Euro 2024 so far but have never previously suffered three defeats in a single group stage at a major tournament.

    Poland have lost their final group stage match in three of their four previous appearances at the European Championships, with the exception being a 1-0 win against Ukraine in 2016 – the only time they have reached the knockout rounds of the competition.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    France – 73.9%

    Draw – 14.8%

    Poland – 11.2%

  • The Numbers Game: England desperate to build momentum against Slovenia ahead of last 16 The Numbers Game: England desperate to build momentum against Slovenia ahead of last 16

    England know a win, but more importantly, a performance is needed when they face Slovenia in Cologne on Tuesday. 

    The Three Lions squandered the opportunity to secure qualification to the knockout stages of Euro 2024 after a lacklustre display against Denmark last time out.

    Harry Kane's 18th-minute opener had given Gareth Southgate's side an early advantage but, much like in their opening 1-0 win against Serbia, England then failed to capitalise on an early lead.

    This time they were punished on Thursday when Morten Hjulmand's effort from distance levelled proceedings, with Denmark perhaps unfortunate to not claim all three points. 

    Many involved with England have already acknowledged they must improve and alterations are expected in an attempt to build momentum heading into the last 16, should they get there. 

    Here, we use Opta data to preview the Three Lions' final Group C clash.

    What's expected?

    England are expected to win and top Group C, with the Opta supercomputer handing them a dominant 75.5% chance of getting the job done in Cologne.

    Slovenia are predicted a meagre 10.4% likelihood of claiming a maiden triumph against their opponents in the same data-led simulations, with a draw forecast slightly higher at 14.1%. 

    This will be only England and Slovenia’s second encounter at a major tournament, with the Three Lions winning 1-0 in the group stages of the 2010 World Cup, but Southgate's men have a fine record in this meeting.

    Slovenia have failed to win any of their six matches against England across all competitions (D1 L5). Greece and fellow Group C side Denmark are the only opponents they have faced on more occasions (seven) without ever winning a single match.

    Yet Matjaz Kek may fancy an upset here as the normally resolute England defence has come under fire at Euro 2024. The Three Lions have faced five more shots than they have attempted in Germany (17 shots, 22 faced).

    They have failed to have more attempts than their opponents in five of their last seven Euros group stages (1992, 2000, 2004, 2012, 2020), something that hasn't happened in any of their last seven World Cup group stage appearances between 1998 and 2022.

    England are also averaging just 8.9 shots per game at the Euros under Southgate (80 in nine games). Going into Matchday 3, that is the lowest shots per game any nation has had under a manager to take charge of them in more than five matches at the European Championship on record (since 1980).

    Southgate will be desperate for his side to rediscover the creative spark that some of their star players have found so easy to muster with their clubs. 

    Changes expected for England, but who will Southgate turn to?

    With a plethora of attacking talent, the right blend of experience and youth, along with players picked to travel to Germany based on current form, England arrived at Euro 2024 among the favourites to win the tournament. 

    However, any form of cohesion and fluidity is yet to transpire for Southgate's side as jeers echoed around the Frankfurt Arena from the travelling contingent after their underwhelming display against Denmark. 

    Kane, who scored 44 goals in all competitions in his debut 2023-24 season for Bayern Munich, had the least touches (22) of any England player who started the game on Thursday, while also managing just one touch in the Danes' penalty area. 

    England's attacking quartet of Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham and Kane managed 114 goals between them in all competitions last season, yet Southgate's men managed just two shots on target, forcing the Three Lions boss into a triple change with 20 minutes to go.

    Eberechi Eze, Jarrod Bowen, and Ollie Watkins were introduced but created just one opportunity of note. Meanwhile, Anthony Gordon and Cole Palmer are still yet to make an appearance in the tournament, despite combining for 33 Premier League goals for Newcastle United and Chelsea respectively last term.

    Despite creating more chances (three) and playing more line-breaking passes in the final third (five) against Denmark, it looks likely that Trent Alexander-Arnold's time in midfield could be up, but it remains to be seen who will replace him. 

    Chelsea's Conor Gallagher has replaced him in England's last two games, but only completed 82.4% of his 17 passes against Denmark, also collecting a yellow card for his troubles. 

    Kobbie Mainoo and Adam Wharton are possible replacements and have shown in the Premier League they are more than capable of stepping up, yet an appearance alongside Declan Rice in midfield would mark both's first feature at a major tournament.

    All or nothing for Slovenia

    Slovenia know they must achieve the unlikely to keep their Euro 2024 journey alive, with their confidence taking a hit after coming inches away from securing a maiden success at the European Championships. 

    Luka Jovic's leveller in Thursday's 1-1 draw with Serbia marked the latest result-altering goal in a Euros match of all-time (excluding extra-time), with his equaliser timed at exactly 95 minutes.

    That late heartbreak leaves Slovenia winless across five matches at UEFA's flagship international tournament (D4 L1).

    It had started well for Kek's side when Zan Karnicnik netted his second international goal, but Slovenia succumbed to a familiar fate.

    Their opener was only the second time they'd gone ahead in a game at the finals, with the other instance coming against Yugoslavia at Euro 2000 when Slovenia led 3-0 before collapsing to a 3-3 draw.

    Benjamin Sesko showed the greatest promise for Slovenia, having the joint-most shots (two) and shots on target (one) for his side, but was loose in possession, ending the game with a pass accuracy of 55.8% – the second-lowest in the team. 

    Yet there is still hope for Kek as Slovenia are unbeaten in their last eight games in all competitions (W4 D4), only enjoying a longer such run once in history (nine games between September 2020 and March 2021).

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    England – Harry Kane

    While much was made of Kane's performance against Denmark, there is no denying the quality he offers the Three Lions in and around the penalty area.

    The Bayern Munich striker has only managed two touches in the opposition box at Euro 2024 so far, the same total as both Kyle Walker and Alexander-Arnold.

    Yet Kane still scored his fifth goal in his last six appearances at the tournament, with only Wayne Rooney (six) and Alan Shearer (seven) managing more Euros goals for England.

    Slovenia – Petar Stojanovic

    With England expected to dominate possession on Tuesday, Slovenia's defence will have to be at their best to give them any chance of getting something from the game. 

    Right-back Petar Stojanovic won possession 11 times against Serbia, with only Ales Ceh at Euro 2000 against Spain (14) managing to win the ball back more often for Slovenia in a major tournament game.

  • Kane hits back at criticism as England captain urges pundits to support squad Kane hits back at criticism as England captain urges pundits to support squad

    Harry Kane insists he is fully fit and firing at Euro 2024 as the England captain reminded pundits of their responsibility, suggesting players "do hear" their scrutiny.

    The Bayern Munich talisman was withdrawn in the second half as England were held to a disappointing 1-1 draw with Denmark on Tuesday.

    Kane opened the scoring after just 18 minutes in that frustrating showing but has struggled to make a decisive impact in Germany, after also failing to deliver in England's opening 1-0 win over Serbia.

    The former Tottenham striker has only managed two touches in the opposition box at Euro 2024, the same total as both Kyle Walker and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

    That led to some scrutiny from some former players-turned-pundits, with Gary Lineker criticising Kane's tendency to drop deep and seemingly negative impact on Gareth Southgate's attempted press.

    Kane acknowledged the comments but suggested the likes of Lineker, an 80-cap England international, must remember their profile when encouraging scrutiny of the national side.

    "I'd never want to be disrespectful to any player, especially a player who's worn the shirt and knows what it's like to play for England," Kane said at Sunday's press conference before Tuesday's clash with Slovenia. 

    "I think what maybe ex-players or ex-players who are pundits now have got to realise is that it's very hard not to listen to it now, especially for some players who are not used to it or some players who are new to the environment. 

    "I always feel like they have a responsibility, I know they've got to be honest and give their opinion but also their responsibility of being an ex-player, an ex-England player that a lot of players looked up to.

    "People do care about what they say and people do listen to them. So like I touched on, everyone's got their opinion but the bottom line is we haven't won anything as a nation for a long, long time.

    "A lot of these players were part of that as well and they know how tough it is. It's not digging anyone out but it's just the reality that they do know that it's tough to play in these major tournaments and tough to play for England.

    "All I'd say is just remember what it was like to wear the shirt and that their words are listened to, you do hear it. We all want to win a major tournament.

    "I'm sure they want us to win a major tournament, and being as helpful as they can and building the lads up with confidence would be a much better way of going about it."

    Kane has scored five goals in his last six Euros appearances, with only Wayne Rooney (six) and Alan Shearer (seven) scoring more European Championship goals for England.

    The England skipper is also only the third player to score in four separate major tournaments for his country (2018 and 2022 World Cup, Euro 2020 and this edition), after Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney.

    Yet still his influence off the ball remains a question that many have posed to Southgate's tactics, but Kane insists he is fit and capable of leading from the front.

    "I'll give everything I have for however long I play," Kane responded when asked about his early withdrawal against Denmark. "If it's 70 minutes, if it's 90 minutes, if it's extra time, I physically feel more than capable of doing any of that.

    "I've done that my whole career and I've done that for pretty much the whole season as well. I'm feeling fresh and I'm feeling fit.

    "I know sometimes when I've had bad games or games not up to the standard, there's always something to look for and find a reason why. But sometimes it's just that's the game, or it's one or two games.

    "If this was in a league season, no one's really talking about it because it's in a small heightened environment.

    "Of course, there's more chatter. So the important thing is that from me personally, I feel fit, I feel ready and I'll play as long as the manager wants me to play."

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