Inter Consider Summer Approach for James Rodríguez as Club Target Other Signings in January

?Inter are contemplating a summer move for Real Madrid midfielder James Rodríguez, but they want to focus their efforts on other signings in January.

Rodríguez has made just nine appearances in all competitions this season, having started just four league games as he has battled injuries and poor form.

James Rodriguez

According to ?La Repubblica, ?Rodríguez wants to leave ?Real after growing frustrated with his lack of first-team football, and ?Inter are considering taking advantage of the situation with a bid for the Colombian midfielder in the summer.

The report suggests that Rodríguez was a serious target for ?Arsenal last summer, only for the move to break down for a number of reasons. Firstly, Real want €50m to part ways with Rodríguez, while the player himself is said to have snubbed the move in favour of a switch to Inter or Paris Saint-Germain.

A January move is unlikely as Real do not want to weaken their squad midway through the season, but a bid at the end of the season is certainly a possibility.

James Rodriguez

Inter are said to be happy to wait until the summer, because they have other plans for the winter window. 

Their primary goal is to find a buyer for Brazilian forward Gabriel Barbosa, who is expected to attract real interest from across Europe after his outstanding season on loan with Flamengo. Plenty of ?Premier League sides have been linked with a move, with Crystal Palace and West Ham regularly tipped to launch a bid.

Alongside selling Gabigol, Inter also want to strike a deal for River Plate centre-back Lucas Martínez Quarta. The 23-year-old has attracted interest from Benfica and Celta Vigo, but I Nerazzurri are confident that they are leading the race for his signature.

River Plate v Alianza Lima - Copa CONMEBOL Libertadores 2019

Once those deals are out of the way, Inter could switch their focus to Rodríguez, whose days at Real certainly seem numbered after failing to win over Zinedine Zidane.

Inter’s squad already boasts plenty of central midfielders, but manager Antonio Conte is eager to add some more quality to try and finally end ?Juventus’ reign of dominance in Italy.


For more from Tom Gott, follow him on Twitter! 

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90min’s Definitive European Power Rankings: Week 14 – Father Ted Special

Following a week in which: 

– Unai Emery got the SACK. 

– Celtic got the W. 

– Tottenham got the ?JOSE. 

– Manchester United took the L.

We rank the best team in Europe using quotes from Father Ted. The best feckin’ Irish sitcom in the history of Ireland. ?Stick your Young Offenders up your arse.


15) Celtic (New Entry)

FBL-EUR-C3-CELTIC-RENNES

“There’s nothing stupid about football! And there’s nothing at all stupid about the annual All-Priests Five-a-Side over 75s Indoor Football Challenge Match, against Rugged Island!”

It was a week of creating history for Celtic, as they not only posted the ?greatest football Christmas advertisement of all time, but they also topped a European competition group for the first time following an emphatic win over Rennes.

And no, there’s nothing stupid about the Europa League! 


14) Tottenham Hotspur (Re-Entry)

Jose Mourinho

“Feck off cup!”

For six years Mauricio Pochettino said ‘feck off’ to the Carabao Cup and ‘feck off’ to the FA Cup in favour of finishing in the top four. And what did that get ?Tottenham? Feck all, really. 

So after sacking Poch, they’ve appointed a manager that has the complete opposite mentality. A manager hellbent on winning absolutely every single trophy in the world. 


13) Cagliari (-)

Radja Nainggolan

“I don’t believe it!” 

I don’t believe! 

Cagliari are unbeaten in their last 10 Serie A games!!!!!!

10!!!! 


12) Chelsea (Down 5) 

Mateo Kovacic

“It was awful alright. A lot of very sloppy babies, who looked as though they really couldn’t be bothered. And the hairiness of some of those babies; It was a very hairy baby parade.”

“Exactly Ted, if people aren’t even going to shave their babies before they come out, I mean…”

Ok, ok, ok, OK, the quote is a bit harsh. 

But ?Chelsea weren’t exactly good at the Mestalla during the week, and if Maxi Gomez was an any way a competent footballer, they would’ve suffered a pretty disastrous Champions League defeat. 


11) Manchester City (-) 

Fernandinho

I thought the standard this year was rubbish.”

Disappointing. 

That’s the only word to describe ?Manchester City this season. 

DISAPPOINTING.


10) Ajax (Re-Entry)

UEFA Champions League"OSC Lille v Ajax Amsterdam"

“How much money did this parish bring in last year?”

“How much money? God I don’t know.”

Ajax sold every single one of their players during the summer and replaced them with Quincy Promes. 

And judging by his 14 goals and three assists in 19 games, that was a pretty good call. 


9) Real Madrid (Up 1) 

FBL-C1-EUR-REAL MADRID-PSG

“They lie in wait like wolves. The smell of blood in their nostrils. Waiting. Interminably waiting. And then…”

Karim Benzema lay in wait like a wolf. Waiting for Cristiano Ronaldo to leave. Interminably waiting. And then…

Karim Benzema’s 2019/20 stats: 

Played: 22

Goals Scored: 18

Assists: 6


8) Lazio (Up 1) 

SS Lazio v CFR Cluj: Group E - UEFA Europa League

“I’m no good at judging the size of crowds Ted, but I’d say there’s about seventeen million of them out there.”

I’m no good at judging the size of crowds, but I’d say they were about -10,000 people at the Lazio game on Thursday night. 

Which is a shame, because won – again. They usually do.


7) Bayern Munich (Up 1) 

Robert Lewandowski

“Would you like your pizza cut into six or eight slices Dougal?”

“Oh just six, I don’t think I could eat eight.”

?Bayern Munich have been on a bit of a tear since they sacked Niko Kovac. 

They’ve played four games, scored 16 goals and conceded a big fat zero.

See, bit of a tear. 


6) Inter (-) 

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“Father Hackett’s got very fond of that brick. It’s a great old pet for him! He doesn’t have to feed it or clean it or take it to the vet. Suits him down to the ground!”

“I love my brick!”

?Inter have got very fond of Romelu Lukaku. He’s a great striker for them! They don’t have to create too many chances for him, nor deal with Mauro Icardi-level off-field antics. Suits Inter down to the ground!


5) Barcelona (Up 7) 

Lionel Messi

“My Lovely Horse, running through the field. Where are you going with your fetlocks blowing, in the wind? I want to shower you with sugar lumps, and ride you over fences. I want to polish your hooves every single day and bring you to the horse dentist. My lovely horse, you’re a pony no more. Running around with a man on your back like a train in the night – like a train in the night!”

Literally every single time ?B?arcelona have moved up the 90min’s Definitive European Power Rankings over the past two season has been because of a Lionel Messi masterclass. 

And, this week’s seven spot ascension is no different. On Wednesday night, Lionel Messi ripped Borussia Dortmund limb from limb, scoring one and assisting another two in his 700th Barcelona appearance. Nice one. 


4) Leicester City (-) 

Brendan Rogers

“To China!”

“Hooray!”

“To Craggy Island!”

“Hooray!”

“More drink!” 

“Hooray!”

“I’m sorry, the bar’s closed.”

“Hooray!”

“Tell you what, how about everybody goes back to my place for a drink?”

“Hooray!”

To Leicester City!

Hooray! 

To Brendan Rodgers! 

Hooray! 

To James Maddison! 

Hooray!

To Jamie Vardy! 

Hooray! 

To being better than Manchester City! 

Hooray!


3) RB Leipzig (-) 

Timo Werner

“You gotta get your own inch, you gotta grab ’em! You know where to grab ’em?”

“Yeah, by the balls!”

“I was gonna say by the shoulders…”

RB Leipzig are grabbing the Champions League and the Bundesliga by the balls this season. 

This past week alone, they closed the gap to Borussia Monchengladbach atop of the Bundesliga table to a single point AND made it through to the Champions League round of 16 for the first time ever. 


2) Liverpool (Down 1) 

Roberto Firmino,Fabinho

“More bad news, Dougal. I’ve just been speaking to Father Ned Fitzmorris. He tripped on a paving stone and one of his kneecaps fell off. There’s no way around it…I’m going to have to put him in goal.”

Fabinho is out injured for the rest of the decade. 

Liverpool have a million games over the course of the next two months. 

It’s all bad news. 


1) Juventus (Up 1) 

Paulo Dybala

“That’s nearly as mad as that thing you told me about the loaves and fishes!”

“No Dougal, that wasn’t mad. That’s when our Lord got a few bits of food together and made lots of food, and everyone had dinner.”

Maurizio Sarri has accumulated more points in his first 18 Serie A and UEFA Champions League games than any other ?Juventus manager ever. 

EVER. 

That’s mad. That’s nearly as mad as that story about the loaves and fishes. 


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Inter vs SPAL Preview: Where to Watch, Live Stream, Kick Off Time & Team News

?Antonio Conte’s Inter side will be hoping not to slip up in their Scudetto challenge as they host the lowly SPAL on Sunday afternoon. 

Conte, along with a raft of mightily talented players brought in in the summer, have helped rejuvenate this historic club after a period of dysfunction under former boss Luciano Spalletii. Through 13 league games so far, I Nerazzurri have only dropped five points, leaving them just a point off Juventus at the summit of Serie A.

And after failing to reach the Champions League knockout stages last season, Inter go into the final matchday of this year’s group stages with their fate in their own hands. A win at home to Barcelona will see them through over Borussia Dortmund – who are one of only three sides to beat Conte’s men thus far.

Antonio Conte

Sunday’s opponents SPAL have had a pretty torrid time of it as of late – going winless in six games. Their poor form has seen them slip to 19th in the table, after a decent campaign last time out where they finished 13th. 


Where to Watch

?When is Kick Off? ?Sunday 1 December
?What Time is Kick Off? ?14:00 (BST)
?Where is it Played? ?San Siro
?TV Channel/Live Stream ?Premier Sports 2
?Referee N/A

Team News

The home side will be without central midfield maestro Nicolo Barella, who recently underwent knee surgery, as well as Matteo Politano, who scored the last time these two sides met.

FBL-ITA-SERIEA-TORINO-INTER

Alexis Sanchez remains out with a hamstring issue while Stefano Sensi remains a doubt for this one after batting injury over the past month or so.

The visitors are relatively healthy coming into this one, and it’s expected for only Marco D’Alessandro and Mohamed Fares to miss the trip to San Siro.


Predicted Lineups

?Inter Handanovic; de Vrij?, Skriniar, Bastoni; Lazaro, Gagliardini, Brozovic, Vecino; Biraghi; Lukaku, Martinez. 
?SPAL ?Berisha; Sala, Vicari, Felipe; Strefezza, Missiroli, Valdifiori, Kurtic, Reca; Di Francesco, Petagna.

Head to Head Record

These two have met on 36 occasions in the league, with I Nerazzurri winning 25 of those meetings and I Spallini coming out on top in four.

Ivan Perisic,Thiago Cionek

Inter haven’t lost in 14 games against SPAL in Serie A, picking up eleven wins and three draws. You have to go back to December 1962 to find the last time SPAL scored more than one goal against I Nerazzurri in a Serie A match (3-2 to Inter). Since then, they’ve scored six goals in 13 matches.

Sunday’s hosts are unbeaten in their last 18 home games against SPAL in Serie A, with 16 wins and two draws. 


Recent Form

While their title rivals Juventus have ground out result after result, this Inter side have looked free-flowing and emphatic in most of their victories this season – despite Conte generally being seen as a traditional Italian manager with a ‘defensive’ philosophy.

It’s fair to say that Inter have been sound across the board, but the strike duo up top – Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku – have been nothing short of outstanding this season. The pair having combined for 22 goals in all competitions so far, helping I Nerazzurri to the third-best attacking record in the division.

FBL-EUR-C1-SLAVIA PRAGUE-INTER

The home side are coming into this one off the back of an impressive away win in Prague – Martinez and Lukaku scoring all three goals – as they kept their Champions League hopes alive. Domestically, they haven’t lost since the home defeat to Juventus at the start of October.

SPAL, on the other hand, haven’t won since their 1-0 win at home to Parma – which was on the same weekend as the Inter-Juve clash – and they’ve only mustered a single point while on their travels this season.

Here’s how these two have fared in their last five encounters.

?Inter SPAL?
?Slavia Praha 1-3 Inter (27/11) ?SPAL 1-1 Genoa (25/11)
?Torino 0-3 Inter (23/11)  ?Udinese 0-0 SPAL (10/11)
?Inter 2-1 Verona (09/11) ?SPAL 0-1 Sampdoria (04/11)
?Dortmund 3-2 Inter (05/11) ?Milan 1-0 SPAL (31/10)
?Bologna 1-2 Inter (02/11) ?SPAL 1-1 Napoli (27/10)

Prediction

This would be a major, major upset if SPAL can get a win here, even a point for the visitors would be turn up.

With the form of this Inter side at the moment, especially the front two, you can only see one winner on Sunday and it should be relatively comfortable – SPAL holding the worst attacking record in Serie A ahead of the weekend’s fixtures.

Torino FC v FC Internazionale - Serie A

Overall, with both sides favouring a three at the back system, Inter’s superior quality at every position should be able to see the home despite a couple of key injuries in midfield. You can also expect more Lukaku-Martinez magic once more on Sunday.

Prediction: Inter 2-0 SPAL


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Romelu Lukaku Calls for More Action From UEFA After Suffering Racial Abuse at Slavia Prague

Romelu Lukaku has again urged authorities to take action against racism after the Inter striker was targeted during his side’s 3-1 victory at Slavia Prague.

The 26-year-old was the subject of racist chanting at Sinobo Stadium on Wednesday night as he grabbed one goal and two assists in the Champions League. 

He was also the victim of abuse in September when the Nerazzurri won 2-1 at Cagliari, with that incident seeing Lukaku make an urgent call to members of the footballing world.

FBL-ITA-SERIEA-BOLOGNA-INTERMILAN

Following the events in Sardinia, the former ?Manchester United forward addressed his fellow players, those in charge of social media websites, and the sport’s governing bodies, telling them ?they must unite to defeat racism in the game.

Lukaku has since issued a similar statement, saying after the win over Slavia (as quoted by ?ANSA): “I said this the last time I was with the Belgian national team – UEFA should do something to solve this problem because situations like this in a stadium are not right. 

During the match [against Slavia], it happened twice to me and it’s not okay. It’s 2019 – there are many players from various nationalities in the teams, and when people go to the stadium and behave wrongly in my view, they are a negative example for children. 

“I hope UEFA now does something, because all the stadium behaved like this after Lautaro [Martinez]’s first goal, and that’s not good for the people watching the game.”

Mario Balotelli

Lukaku’s comments within days of another high-profile incident in Italy, which saw Brescia star Mario Balotelli ?racially abused by the owner of the club, Massimo Cellino.

Victory handed ?Inter a much-needed lift as they look to qualify for the ?Champions League knockout stages. Antonio Conte’s recruits are currently level on points with ?Borussia Dortmund, with the Nerazzurri set to face ?Barcelona in their final group fixture.


For more from Ed Alexander, follow him on Twitter

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The Stats Behind Italy’s Record Breaking Euro 2020 Qualification Campaign Under Roberto Mancini

?Just in case you weren’t following Euro 2020 qualification too closely, you may be wondering if there were any standout achievers during the often laborious whittling down process.

In short, the answer is a resounding yes.

England qualified with seven wins from their eight games, World Cup winners France booked their place in next year’s finals, Germany, Netherlands and Portugal are through, while UkraineSpain and Belgium have progressed – the latter two with extreme ease – through qualification unbeaten.

But there has been one team who have stood head and shoulders above the rest since last March, when qualifying officially got underway. 

That team is Roberto Mancini’s Italy.

Italy v Armenia - UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier

Simply put, the Azzurri have been breathtaking since the back end of last year. 10 wins out of 10 saw them romp through Group J with consummate ease, blowing Finland, Greece, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Armenia out of the water.

In that time, Italy scored 37 goals – unfathomable for a team who inexplicably failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup – and conceded just four times. Only Belgium eclipsed Mancini’s side in terms of goalscoring, and they had the luxury of coming up against San Marino – who shipped 51 goals in their 10 qualifying matches. Enough said on that, you feel.

Under Mancini, Italy have now won 14 of their 20 games, a win percentage of 70%. That’s not a huge sample size to go by, but it’s worth noting that there hasn’t been an Italian national team manager to boast a better record. 

His closest adversary in that respect? Vittorio Pozzo, who is ?perhaps remembered for his controve?r?sial links to corruption, fascism and propaganda, rather than his footballing achievements.

So what’s changed under Mancini? Why are things suddenly going smoothly for a team who, not only not missed the last World Cup, have failed to get out of the group stage in the previous two editions.

Well, he’s got a cracking pool of developing youth talent at his disposal for one. Federico Chiesa, Nicolo Zaniolo, Sandro Tonali and Nicolo Barella are just four of a number of outstanding young players blossoming in Serie A, and those talents are now being allowed to flourish on the international stage.

Each bring a different element of youthful exuberance to the Azzurri, intertwining nicely with older and wiser heads like Jorginho and Lorenzo Insigne.

But more importantly, Mancini’s a winner who has an eye for spotting deficiencies and improving things. A coach with a proven record of winning titles – three Serie A crowns and a Premier League title to be specific – he is capable of managing fiery egos, absorbing pressure from above and has been able to implement a cautious, pragmatic approach that breeds success.

He’s done it before at Inter, he’s done it before at Manchester City and now he’s doing it with Italy.

FBL-ENG-PR-MANCITY-QPR

So far, he’s succeeding – breaking Pozzo’s consecutive win record (9) with victory over Bosnia in Italy’s penultimate qualifier, as well as recording the highest number of victories recorded in a single calendar year. To top things, Mancini’s side celebrated that accomplishment by annihilating Armenia 9-1, stretching that winning run to 11 games. In that game, Italy had seven different goalscorers – another record.

After the clash with Bosnia, Mancini admitted he was proud at surpassing that record but recognised Pozzo “…won two World Cups and the Olympics, I still haven’t won anything,” – an indication that he’s remaining grounded amongst the growing hype.

It’s hard not to get lost in what is being accomplished – despite some of that success coming against fairly benign opposition – but remaining focused appears key for Italy. 

This notion was embodied in comments made by Jorginho, who added in the aftermath of the huge win over Armenia (via ?MailOnline Sport): “We are preparing for the most important tests against the big teams. We’re working on improving our weak areas and relishing the stronger elements to our game. I think we can achieve some great things together.

Jorginho

“It’s important for all of us to gain experience, as we have a young squad and much to learn, the kind of things you can only learn by playing at a high level. So we must continue like this and hope to learn also from the big challenges that are coming up.”

The other positive for Italy is the amount of quality players they have to choose from. Since taking charge of his first match against Saudi Arabia in May 2018, Mancini has called upon 65 players, handing debuts to 24 players. In that period, Italy have scored 45 goals, with no other head coach bettering that statistic in the last 52 years.

Mancini may feel he has a bit of a selection headache ahead – as so many have impressed – but the majority would argue that he has a golden generation of talent at his disposal. What he eventually does with it remains to be seen, but there’s no denying that the misery of missing out on last year’s World Cup is a distant memory.

Make no mistake about it, Italy will be there or thereabouts next summer – and their European Championship pedigree suggests they may do rather well…


For more from Toby Cudworth, follow him on Twitter!

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