Milan, Naples and Inter win the first knockout round of the Champions League and dream. Today it’s the turn of Juve, Roma, Lazio and Fiorentina: the full blown can be achieved, the opponents are not irresistible
Three out of three. Inter beat Porto in the first leg of the round of 16, joins Milan and Naples in turn victorious, brings Italy closer to what seemed like only a beautiful mid-winter dream: to bring all our teams left in the running between the best eight in Europe. Now the possibility exists, it’s concrete: Spalletti already seems to have overcome the obstacle, because he won 2-0 and what’s more in Germany; Inzaghi and Pioli will have to hold on away to Porto and Tottenham but a one-goal lead gives them high hopes.
I can’t guarantee it
Lukaku scored again, as against Udinese, but this time from open play: a truly comforting signal for Inter. The Belgian was left on the bench at the start but when he replaced Dzeko he came on very well, making the difference as well as scoring. Flashes of true Romelu, then. Inzaghi is right to say that he improves every day, the feeling is that he is slowly getting closer to the champion who dragged the Nerazzurri to the Scudetto two years ago. What happened after Lukaku’s goal is significant, because the center forward went looking for Barella with his finger, this time not to scold him but to thank him for the assist. What is certain is that the Nerazzurri environment remains extremely lively: after the dispute between the Belgian and Nicolò, yesterday there was an equally tough confrontation between Onana and Dzeko (who knows if the goalkeeper will assist Edin in the next match).
The other Europe
Four out of four: this is tonight’s goal in the minor cups, which choose the qualifiers for the round of 16. We can do it here too, also because the opponents – we saw it in the first leg – are not irresistible. On the contrary. And they are certainly not up to ours, neither in the Europa League nor in the Conference, even if it is dangerous to face these comparisons with presumption.
Of four, one is virtually qualified: Fiorentina won 4-0 in Braga and they just need to pay attention, application and running into what looks like night training. In the same cup, in theory, Lazio should also be almost safe: in the first leg against Cluj they won even though they played the beauty of 75 minutes in ten (questionable expulsion of Patric); it ended 1-0, but the success could have been wider. The trouble is that the environment will be hot, ready to become incandescent. But the main problem is that Sarri will lack quite a few strong starters: Milinkovic-Savic and Zaccagni, Pedro and Romagnoli plus (obviously) the suspended Patric. Half a team, in short.
The technical values remain distant, but empty passages are forbidden: a negative episode is enough to call everything into question. In the Europa League there are the thorniest cases, because the outcome of this round of 16 will affect the situation of two coaches full of successes, fame and much more: Allegri and Mourinho. For both, the elimination would represent a clamorous defeat, the possible/probable failure of the season for Juve and Roma; Max also plays a good part of the Juventus bench, because it is difficult to imagine him still in the saddle next season if he adds this defeat to the five games lost in the Champions League elimination round. Nantes are thirteenth in Ligue 1: although tonight we start from 1-1, and although Juve are missing Chiesa (besides Pogba, but this is not news), it would be surprising if he prevailed over the team which, net of the penalty, is second in A. Allegri restored solidity to the bianconeri, who in the last five games – cups included – have conceded only one goal, precisely from the French. In short, it is natural to be confident, as well as for Roma’s comeback against Salzburg (and who knows if this time Mou will be satisfied with the public, who deserved the coach’s reproaches with Verona, twenty-third sold out in a row). Three out of three, four out of four. Is advancing in Europe with seven teams just a dream?
February 23, 2023 (change February 23, 2023 | 07:32)
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