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Inter Milan FC
Inter Milan FC

The Derby della Madonnina always raises the blood pressure of both Inter Milan and AC Milan fans, no matter what the circumstances are.

This replay Wednesday is certainly no different.

Both teams still have a lot to play for this late in the season.

For the Nerazzurri, all eyes are on a Champions League position which many feel will be the solution to all of our woes.

Will it? Not likely, but it certainly couldn’t hurt.

After Sunday’s win over Hellas Verona, Inter sit in fourth – just two points back of Roma – with a game in-hand over the capital club and a point ahead of Lazio who crushed Benevento over the weekend.

Now, we all know that Juventus and Napoli are out of reach. There is no realistic way for Inter to crack the top two this season because of how both the aforementioned teams have performed. It’s unfortunate considering how Inter started the season, but it is what it is.

For Interisti, we have to hope for a top four finish to get back to Europe. And, despite our fall on challenging times in December and January, it is still within our grasp. Which more speaks to the weakness of Serie A’s midtable teams than our ability to keep in the chase.

A win Wednesday puts us over Roma and into third, but by no means secures a spot in the Champions League. But, a loss for Milan likely ends their season chasing the Europa League – which would be great for Inter fans for us to say we shut the door on our rivals.

At this point, it really doesn’t matter how Milan finishes, so long as it isn’t above us. Barring a complete let-down by us and a run of the table for Milan, it is unlikely they finish above us this year. Of course, in the process of writing that I realize I may have jinxed it a bit.

The one certain thing is that Inter Milan controls its own fate. Win and we are in, lose and we leave our future to Roma and Lazio to determine.

The fact of the matter is that we are resting a lot of the future on qualifying for Europe next season. We are banking, literally, on it so much that qualification will have a direct impact on our squad for the next season.

Earning qualification likely means we keep Joao Cancelo and Rafinha, restructure Mauro Icardi’s contract with confidence and keep Luciano Spalletti for another five years or more. Not qualifying means all of those factors come into question.

Not qualifying means we likely ship either Cancelo or Rafinha back, or both. Negotiating Icardi’s contract becomes harder because we lose a lot of contractual leverage. Plus, any hopes of adding anyone withers on the proverbial vine. No Javier Pastore, no anyone.

The belt-tightening by the Suning Group almost assures no new funds infused into the club unless from additional sponsorships or the cash from Champions League football.

It’s not all gloom and doom. With where we currently sit, the Europa League is a strong possibility as Serie A gets its fifth- and sixth-place teams in. The fifth-place team goes to the Group Stage while the sixth-place finisher enters the second qualifying round. But, let’s be honest, we don’t want Europa League. It will be fine, but not the goal and many will see it as a failure despite missing European football completely this season.

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The reality is we are no where near out of the woods and nothing is assured at this stage. With eight games remaining after the Derby, a win gives us a lot of hope with Torino, Atalanta, Cagliari, Chievo, Juventus, Udinese, Sassuolo and Lazio left to round out the regular season.

A loss means Inter has to get wins where it is supposed to in at least six of those remaining games to remain in contention for the Champions League. Plus, we would need help from others to give losses to Roma, Lazio and Milan.

Not that winning Wednesday means we are in, because it certainly doesn’t. But, consider the confidence it will give to the team heading into winnable games in the next four weeks.

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Harry Kane
Harry Kane

 

 

Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino has expressed his delight as Harry Kane finished the season as Europe’s top goalscorer.

A hat-trick against Southampton in a 5-2 win at Wembley saw the striker take his tally to 56 goals for the calendar year, becoming the first player since Edin Dzeko in 2009 to beat Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to the accolade.

And having praised his strike ace so often, the Argentine was happy to do so once again.

He told BT Sport: “I think I’ve said everything [about Kane]. The last nine or 10 years it’s been Cristiano Ronaldo [the best in the world] and today it’s Harry Kane. I’m so happy to congratulate him and all of the team, well done.

“It doesn’t surprise us because every day we see how he works, his determination, how professional he is, and that can only be good for him. He’s a very talented player.

“He’s a great professional and a good example for everybody, not just his goals.”

Meanwhile, reflecting on the calendar year, Pochettino added: “We are so ambitious but I am so happy. We have finished this year in a very good way and I hope next year we can win more.”