Mourinho’s Inter Milan will face Serie A test

By Online Editorial

Inter Milan manager Jose Mourinho

AC Milan and Juventus may have both dropped points at the weekend but all the talk in Italy was of Inter’s defeat to Sampdoria. Ben Lyttleton discusses just how serious Jose Mourinho’s problems are at the moment.

The big three clubs in Serie A all failed to win this weekend but only one result dominated the Italian airwaves on Sunday: champions Inter losing 1-0 at surprise league leaders Sampdoria. Juventus conceded a late equaliser against Bologna and AC Milan failed to get past Bari.

Unsurprisingly, most of the reaction to the game has focused on Jose Mourinho and his belligerent response to the defeat. Considering that Samp coach Gigi del Neri was in charge of Atalanta when they beat Inter 3-1 last season, Mourinho bristled at suggestions that Del Neri had become his coaching nemesis.

“He can’t be because I was a European champion with Porto and when I left he only lasted 15 days when he replaced me,” he said, referring to the Italian’s ill-fated spell at Porto in 2004.

When another television interviewer suggested that Mourinho had blundered by replacing Mario Balotelli, Inter’s most threatening player, with the defensive Cristian Chivu, and asked him why, he got the withering response, “Because I’m the coach.” It’s good to know that Mourinho has mastered the art of the insult in Italian. His methodology is to let these comments take the headlines and focus attention away from the performance, but let’s not allow that for once.

Inter struggled with a return to last season’s disastrous 4-3-3 formation (until Mourinho switched it), and there were some clear weaknesses: Davide Santon was at fault for the only goal of the game, and though a superb prospect, cannot be relied upon to be Mr Consistent every match (unlike Javier Zanetti); Patrick Vieira was anonymous for large parts of the game and up front, Diego Milito seemed to struggle as the lone forward in a trident. Once again, without Wesley Sneijder in the side, Inter seem to lack a player with creativity and vision.

Mourinho’s team coasted to the Serie A title last season but I cannot see it being so easy for them this time around.

Inter are a (1.9) lay for the title and given that Betfair’s Italian football expert Dave Farrar has already backed Juventus for the title at their pre-season (3.95), their current price of (2.54) still remains attractive. Inter face a tricky Champions League trip to debutants Rubin Kazan and without Sneijder playing, could find it awkward.

It would be totally unfair to under-play Sampdoria’s role in their victory: they were superb, and their harrying and constant pressure clearly disrupted Inter. As Del Neri said, “You have to hit them hard and force them to think about defending.”

Inspired by the performances of Antonio Cassano and the goals of match-winner Giampaolo Pazzini, who has come in from (30.0) to (6.0) to finish top-scorer (14 goals in 25 games since joining in January), Samp are now the deserved Serie A leaders.

Their reliance on Cassano (and lack of strength in depth) makes their (42.0) title price about fair but far more interesting is their (4.6) price for a top-three finish. With Milan wobbling under Leonardo and Fiorentina’s focus on Europe, this Samp side could sneak into third spot, at (4.6): after all, they are unbeaten at home in 12 matches, having won eight of them, and have scored 34 times. They are in a great position to continue the upsurge in fortunes of the Genoa clubs.

Reproduced with permission from betting.betfair.com. © The Sporting Exchange Limited

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