Prior to football’s postponement in March, Inter’s Scudetto chances looked dead and buried. They had played Lazio and Juventus – their two title contenders – in their previous two games before the postponement, and lost to both of them.
The defeats cut Antonio Conte’s side adrift of Lazio and Juventus. Top of the table for much of the first half of the season, I Nerazzurri paid the price for a slight dip in form. They currently occupy third place, nine points off first-placed Juventus – albeit with a game in hand.
Football’s hiatus may well prove to be a blessing in disguise for Inter, however. Juventus have been toothless up-front following their return to football, with Maurizio Sarri’s side lacking the kind of assurance they had displayed earlier in the season. Lazio are currently on a 21-game unbeaten run, but there are questions marks over whether they have the strength in depth to continue that form as they play two games a week.
Inter, on the other hand, are deadly going forward. They boast the best strike force on the peninsula – Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez – who have scored a combined 30 league goals this season. Their strength is not in the number of goals that they score, but the fact that they score consistently, rarely having an off-game or experiencing a loss of form. The same cannot be said for Juventus’ attackers.
Conte’s side also boast strength in depth. Alexis Sanchez is a superb back-up option for one of Lukaku or Martinez, while they could choose from Antonio Candreva and Victor Moses to occupy the right-wing, and Kwadwo Asamoah, Ashley Young or Cristiano Biraghi from the left-wing. Juventus too have great options on the bench, but Lazio do not, and this could be a major problem for Simone Inzaghi’s side going forward.
Inter also have a relatively kind end-of-season run-in. Out of their 12 remaining games, seven of them are against teams in the bottom-half of the table, and it will be expected that I Nerazzurri will collect three points from each of these games. Their fixtures against Milan, Juventus and Lazio are also out of the way, meaning Napoli, Atalanta and Roma will be their toughest opponents, with all these teams occupying the European places but still below Inter in the table.
Lazio and Juventus’ run-ins are much more difficult, with the former facing Atalanta, Milan and Napoli, and the latter facing Milan, Atalanta and Roma – not to mention that these two teams will have to face each other.
That isn’t to say Inter have a good chance of winning the title – they don’t. The odds are still very much stacked against them, and they will need to ensure that they don’t drop many points for the remainder of the season. There’s still room for optimism though, and stranger things have happened.