Simeone Inzaghi expects the Serie A title race to provide more surprises as Inter look to chase down rivals Milan, although he admits the Nerazzurri camp was in low spirits after a loss to Bologna.

Despite scoring their fastest goal of the Serie A season to take the lead at Bologna when Ivan Perisic found the net after 2 minutes and 53 seconds, Inter fell to a 2-1 defeat after goals from Marko Arnautovic and Nicola Sansone, leaving them two points adrift of the Rossoneri.  

The Nerazzurri had been unbeaten in 11 matches in all competitions prior to the defeat, and it represented their first league loss at bottom-half opponents since January 2021. 

Inter will now require at least one slip-up from Stefano Pioli's team in order to retain the title, and although Inzaghi acknowledges Wednesday's defeat was a deflating result, he believes there are more twists to come.

"The mood was not the best, the disappointment has been strong," Inzaghi said. "In these days, however, I have seen an excellent team spirit, they want to believe until the end. 

"Every match will be tough for everyone, at the end of the season we will do the count. We will try to give satisfaction to the fans after doing it [winning a trophy] with the Super Cup [which Inter lifted in January].

"When you lose games, you always make mistakes. In Bologna we had to be more clinical in the first half, and we didn't succeed. 

"Winning would have given us primacy and instead we have to chase. With my staff we can [only] affect ourselves: every Sunday there are surprises and there are still four games to go.

"In Bologna we didn't have to finish the first half level, we needed more goals given the many opportunities we created. Now, anything can happen."

Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic started on the bench at Bologna after struggling with a back injury, and remains a doubt for the clash with Udinese on Sunday.

Ionut Radu started in the place of Handanovic, who has kept 14 clean sheets and recorded a save percentage of 77.39 per cent in Serie A this term, but gifted Bologna's Sansone a last-gasp winner after failing to control a back-pass. 

Although Inzaghi did not rule out a return for Handanovic against Udinese, he reiterated his confidence in Radu.

"He [Handanovic] has an important problem, today he has done a partial customized training and there is some hope. Tomorrow we will see, he will try," Inzaghi added.

"[If not], for sure Radu will play, he has my utmost confidence and I think he will have an important career ahead of him even though he has played very little this year."

Julio Cesar believes his former club Inter have "all the possibilities" to retain their Serie A title after a productive weekend for the Nerazzurri in the Scudetto race.

Simone Inzaghi's side beat Hellas Verona on Saturday before seeing title rivals Napoli lose at home to Fiorentina and league leaders Milan draw 0-0 at Torino.

Inter now sit second, ahead of Napoli on goal difference and two points behind Milan, but with a game in hand on both and a superior goal difference.

Speaking with Stats Perform courtesy of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Cesar compared the current Inter team to the one he played in, which won a treble in the 2009-10 season. 

"Since Inter won the title [last season], Juventus' streak has been interrupted," he said. "When I was at Inter, Juventus was the team to beat. Now, after the title, responsibility always increases.

"Today, the club has a wonderful structure at La Pinetina. I had the opportunity to visit the place. Everything has changed. Having said that, I think that the football played on the pitch makes the difference.

"This championship is very balanced. Inter is in second place behind Milan, the season is still open.

"We have Milan, Inter and Napoli, which are all in contention for the title. There are six games left and Inter have all the possibilities to win the Scudetto. Inter is a strong team, although they had peaks and valleys, but I guess this is normal during a season."

 

Cesar also had words of praise for current Inter stopper Samir Handanovic, believing that a lack of Champions League football during his time at the club has led to people underestimating the Slovenian.

"I think Samir has shown his value since he joined Inter," he said. "However, his quality was not always recognised because Inter was out of the Champions League for many years.

"Playing in the Champions League allows you to step up your game. Samir has brought the right confidence, he has become the captain and the leader of the team. Inter must be ready to give credit to the work that Samir has done."

Inter have been linked with a move for Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana at the end of the season, but Cesar is unsure if the Cameroonian would displace Handanovic.

He added: "Even if a younger keeper will join the club – I am not sure about Onana's age [26] but I imagine he is a young talent – Samir is still a keeper who knows the club's environment very well.

"Even if Onana will join Inter, Handanovic will be the first choice. Winning the title could also give him the confidence in persuading the club to be their first choice also for next year. He is talented and he keeps himself physically fit, so he could be the first goalkeeper for the next two years."

Simone Inzaghi bemoaned Inter's 2-1 loss to fierce rivals Milan and admitted his players learned a "tough lesson" as the Scudetto title race was blown wide open.

Inter were heading seven points clear at the top of Serie A with a game in hand after Ivan Perisic's first-half volley put them in control of Saturday's Derby della Madonnina.

The Nerazzurri continued to dominate for large parts of the match and would have been further ahead if not for Mike Maignan, who pulled off four big saves in the first half.

However, Inter were punished for failing to kill off the contest when Olivier Giroud scored a quickfire double at San Siro in his first taste of this famous fixture.

Giroud slid in at the back post to level up the game on 75 minutes and added a second three minutes later, becoming the first Frenchman to score twice against Inter in Serie A.

After falling to a barely believable first home league loss since October 2020 – also against Milan – Inzaghi was left to wonder just how his side chucked away the points.

"This is football. We dominated in every way but weren't sharp at the end. They were lucky on the first goal and were smart on the second," he said.

"I saw a derby with one-way traffic for 60 minutes. In the final 25 minutes, we weren't as sharp or as in control, and the game was more open to individual incidents. 

"We know it's a defeat that hurts, but strong teams must be able to analyse their errors.

"If we played it again 10 times, we might lose it once. We all know how important the derby is; we didn't deserve to lose, but that is football.

"Until the equaliser, we had allowed Milan practically nothing. It's a tough lesson, but a valuable one to make us more determined to kill off games so this doesn't happen again."

 

Inter's players were unhappy that Giroud's first goal was allowed to stand as they felt that he barged into former Arsenal team-mate Alexis Sanchez earlier in the attack.

But Inzaghi accepted Inter only had themselves to blame after falling to just a second league loss to Milan – who lost Theo Hernandez to a late red card – in their last 12 meetings.

"The lads got irritated at the equaliser, as there was probably a clear foul on Alexis Sanchez and we lost our focus," he said.

"We should've scored the second goal, while Alexis Sanchez was barged off the pitch practically by Giroud on the goal.

"But the fact remains if we had taken more of our chances, [the Giroud incident] wouldn’t have mattered. It's not a problem, it was a challenge. 

"If you think it's fair, that's fine. It's not the issue – the lads lost their focus a bit after that incident and that's the problem. The referee let a lot go."

Saturday's defeat was Inter's first to Milan in the league after leading in the game since February 2004 and leaves them just one point clear, albeit with a game in hand.

Samir Handanovic, whose 30 Serie A appearances against Milan is the most of any current player against another in the competition, echoed the thoughts of his head coach.

"Today we did everything. We had the game under control and played well," he told Inter TV. "But then we lost a few too many balls and were punished. 

"There are many more games and the mistakes have to be reviewed. It must be understood why we managed the last 15 minutes like we did. 

"Sometimes you take risks and you are not punished; today we took risks and were punished."

Could a Premier League return be on the cards for Leroy Sane?

Sane swapped Manchester City for Bayern Munich in 2020, however, it has not gone according to plan in his native Germany.

Chelsea are reportedly trying to lure Sane back to England.

 

TOP STORY – SANE TO MAKE ENGLAND RETURN?

Chelsea are keen to sign Leroy Sane from Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, according to the Express.

Sane left Manchester City for Bayern in 2020 but the Germany international has struggled for form in Munich.

Champions League holders Chelsea – led by German boss Thomas Tuchel – are reportedly targeting Sane and are willing to include Callum Hudson-Odoi, Hakim Ziyech or Christian Pulisic in any deal.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester United could target Inter midfielder Marcelo Brozovic in January, per Manchester Evening News. Brozovic is nearing the end of his Inter contract, with Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona also among the Croatia international's admirers. The report has also linked United with Barca's Pedri and Borussia Monchengladbach forward Dennis Zakaria, who has been previously linked to City and Inter.

Liverpool are continuing contract talks with star Mohamed Salah, says the Liverpool Echo, which claims Salah is not asking for £500,000 per week, despite previous reports. Salah has been linked with Real Madrid and Barcelona previously.

Franck Ribery is set to join Serie A newcomers Salernitana on a free transfer, according to Fabrizio Romano. The former Bayern and France star has been without a club since leaving Fiorentina at the end of 2020-21.

- Corriere dello Sport claims Roma are hoping to sign Zenit star Sardar Azmoun on a free transfer at the end of the season.

- The front page of Monday's Tuttosport claims Inter are eyeing soon-to-be free agents Lorenzo Insigne of Napoli and Bayern midfielder Corentin Tolisso. Insigne has previously been linked with Milan and Liverpool, while the likes of United, Arsenal, Tottenham and Roma have been credited with interest in Tolisso.

- Calciomercato reports Inter are considering Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana as a long-term replacement for Samir Handanovic.

Inter extended their lead at the Serie A summit to 10 points but could only draw 1-1 with Spezia following another Samir Handanovic error on Wednesday.

In their first match since joining and withdrawing from the much-criticised European Super League project, league leaders Inter failed to fully capitalise on second-place Milan's 2-1 loss to Sassuolo earlier in the day.

After scoring an own goal in the 1-1 draw that ended Inter's 11-game winning run in Serie A at Napoli on Sunday, some more shoddy goalkeeping from Handanovic enabled Diego Farias to put Spezia in front early on at Stadio Alberto Picco.

Ivan Perisic bundled in the equaliser on his 200th appearance in all competitions for Inter, who saw Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez each denied by the offside flag late on as they failed to find the winner that would have boosted their Scudetto hopes further.

Spezia were without their top scorer M'Bala Nzola but managed to take a surprise lead in the 12th minute when Farias' effort from just outside the box squirmed past Handanovic.

Inter's final pass was often lacking but after Nicolo Barella sliced their best opportunity wide, Achraf Hakimi teed up fellow wing-back Perisic for the equaliser ahead of half-time.

The Nerazzurri were buoyed by the goal and Martinez saw his shot come back off the post before being gathered by Spezia goalkeeper Ivan Provedel.

A woeful back pass from Ardijan Ismajli gifted Lukaku a chance to put Inter in front after the hour mark but he was unable to round Provedel cleanly and the keeper recovered well to block his second attempt.

Milan Skriniar was unable to turn substitute Alexis Sanchez's free-kick home before Martinez rattled the upright again in the 80th minute.

Lukaku and Martinez were frustrated by offside decisions, but it looked like the winner was finally about to arrive when the pair combined in stoppage time. However, the Argentina international lashed his effort straight at Provedel.

Inter's 11-game winning streak in Serie A came to an end as Samir Handanovic's first-half own goal helped Napoli seal a 1-1 draw on Sunday.

Antonio Conte's side are still red-hot favourites to win a first league title since the 2009-10 season, though the gap to neighbours Milan is down to nine points with seven games remaining after their city rivals overcame Genoa earlier on Sunday.

Inter hit the woodwork twice in the first half, yet they went in at the interval behind after Handanovic had fumbled a cross into his own net.

Christian Eriksen gave Inter hope of securing consecutive away league wins over Napoli for the first time since 1997, but Gennaro Gattuso's hosts held firm to move within two points of fourth-placed Juventus.

After a tepid start, Inter went agonisingly close to going ahead shortly before the half-hour mark when Romelu Lukaku diverted Marcelo Brozovic's strike onto the crossbar from six yards.

Napoli then broke the deadlock nine minutes before the interval after some slapstick goalkeeping from Handanovic.

Lorenzo Insigne's cross should have been comfortably dealt with by the Inter keeper, yet the ball conspired to end up in the back of the net after he collided with Stefan de Vrij when trying to claim it.

Lukaku hit the woodwork again before the interval, steering Eriksen's free-kick onto Alex Meret's right-hand post, as Inter finished the first half strongly.

Inter deservedly pulled level 10 minutes into the second half when Eriksen rifled in just his second Serie A goal for the club from 20 yards.

Matteo Politano struck the crossbar with a thunderous strike late on, while Inter had a nervous wait when referee Daniele Doveri reviewed a De Vrij tackle in the penalty area on the pitchside monitor, the official ultimately deciding the Dutchman had legally won the ball.

Gianluigi Donnarumma is attracting interest from across Europe.

Donnarumma's Milan contract expires at season's end and the star goalkeeper is yet to commit.

Premier League giants Chelsea are reportedly ready to prise the Italy international to London.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA LAUNCH DONNARUMMA BID

Chelsea are ready to make a move for Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, according to Libero Quotidiano.

Donnarumma's contract expires at the end of the season and Premier League giants Chelsea are set to submit an offer worth £9million (€10.5m) per season, despite already boasting the world's most expensive goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga and Edouard Mendy.

The Italy international has also been linked with the likes of Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sky reports teenage sensation Jamal Musiala has signed a long-term contract extension with Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich. The new deal is reportedly worth €5m per year and will tie him to Bayern until 2026.

Manchester City have joined the race for Atalanta star Robin Gosens, according to Virgilio. Gosens has had interest from Serie A rivals Inter and Juventus but Atalanta are understood to want €40m (£34m) for his services.

- The Daily Mail says Leicester City are planning for Jamie Vardy's long-term replacement by targeting a £15m move for Celtic forward Odsonne Edouard.

- Santiago Arias is being circled by EvertonRoma and PSG this off-season, according to Kicker. Arias is currently on loan at Bayer Leverkusen from Atletico Madrid.

- InterLive claims Inter are keen on Juve goalkeeper Mattia Perin, who is currently on loan at Genoa, and may use Matias Vecino in exchange. The Nerazzurri are looking for goalkeeper cover for Samir Handanovic.

Stefano Pioli says Milan are no longer happy simply playing the part of challengers in the Serie A title race and will work hard to recover from a testing stretch that now includes a derby defeat to Inter.

The Rossoneri have led the league for much of the season but slipped four points off the pace with Sunday's 3-0 home loss to their rivals at San Siro.

Lautaro Martinez added to his early opener with a second after the break, with Romelu Lukaku capping Milan's second consecutive Serie A defeat.

Pioli's side also conceded a last-ditch equaliser to Red Star Belgrade in the Europa League since losing at Spezia, their overwhelmingly positive campaign threatening to come off the rails.

Milan have now suffered four defeats in Serie A in 2021, twice as many as in the whole of the previous calendar year.

Pioli saw improvement in this performance compared to the Spezia setback, though, as Milan enjoyed 59.9 per cent of the possession and had 15 attempts, and the coach is determined to stay level-headed.

But the team's ambitions have changed over the course of the campaign and there must now be a response, he added.

"I believe that our strength has always been balance – and belief in our work," Pioli told DAZN.

"If they had told us months ago that at this point of the season we were second in the standings, we would have jumped for joy. This doesn't have to make us happy and content now.

"In these past two or three games, we have not been able to put our quality on the field. We need to get back to doing more.

"We were really poor in the Spezia game. Today we feel sorry for ourselves, for the fans, for the club, but today we played our game.

"We have to maintain clarity, positivity, and evaluate things well. When you lose, you have to work harder and this we will have to do."

While Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma became the youngest player to clock up 200 games in Serie A in the three-points-per-win era, his opposite number ensured the milestone passed with little cause for celebration.

The outstanding Samir Handanovic made eight saves, his most in a game for Inter since pulling off eight against Lazio in January 2019 and most in a Serie A outing since the same number against Juventus in December 2017.

Only three times in Handanovic's Nerazzurri career has he made more than eight stops in a match.

The keeper denied Zlatan Ibrahimovic on five occasions as the veteran Milan superstar failed to add to his tally of 10 Milan derby goals.

Pioli recognised Handanovic's display but refused to criticise Ibrahimovic, who was withdrawn after 75 minutes with cramp in his calf.

"A centre-forward is conditioned by the performance of the team," he said. "In the first half, we did not have the accuracy in the plays, in the final pass.

"In the second half, then we created and had scoring chances. It is a long time since Samir Handanovic saved so often and so well. It is a difficult week, but we will recover."

Just one of Handanovic's saves came in the first half and Pioli rued Milan's slow start as he reflected on the match as a whole.

"The goal immediately after five minutes weighed heavily," he said. "We struggled to find the rhythm, intensity and quality that was needed to find spaces.

"We let Inter play the game where they are strongest.

"In the second half, we were succeeding but we were unable to score in our best moment. Then came the second goal.

"I have nothing to say about the second half of my team; in the first half, we had to do something more."

Lautaro Martinez declared Inter showed their true colours in Sunday's 3-0 derby victory over Milan at San Siro.

The Nerazzurri moved four points clear at the top of Serie A thanks to a double from Martinez and Romelu Lukaku's 23rd goal of the season in all competitions.

Lukaku crossed for his strike partner to nod in after only five minutes and each of them scored after the interval to put the game beyond Milan's reach.

Having been eliminated from European competition in December and beaten in the Coppa Italia semi-finals by Juventus, the Scudetto remains Inter's only hope for silverware in 2020-21.

Martinez is now determined to end the club's 11-year wait to become champions of Italy again.

"This is what we are: we're united, we work every day to give our best and to reach as high as we can, and today we proved it," Martinez told DAZN.

"We run and fight together; you can see it on the pitch. We have suffered a lot this year: two eliminations from the Coppa Italia and the Champions League. This [Serie A] is the only goal left and we're fighting for it. We're happy to be ahead of everyone else."

Lukaku became the first Inter player since Benito Lorenzi in 1950 to score in four consecutive league derbies against Milan.

Martinez believes the Belgium international can still get better as he aims to win a first club trophy since the Belgian Pro League with Anderlecht in 2010.

"Lukaku can improve a lot," Martinez said. "He's 27 years old, he works and he makes himself available to his team-mates. He's a great person on and off the pitch and we're happy to have him with us."

Inter were mostly in control of the contest but were indebted to goalkeeper Samir Handanovic in the first three minutes of the second half, as he twice denied Zlatan Ibrahimovic in quick succession before tipping a Sandro Tonali shot over the bar.

"Handanovic is always ready. We're happy because, when we need him, he always responds," Martinez said.

"We also should have been more focused [early in the second half], but we're happy to have played a good game and to have got three points."

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