Can unbeaten Inter’s chemistry be catalyst for Serie A success?
Even the most ardent Inter Milan fans, situated in a crowded Curva Nord, may not have imagined how Roberto Mancini’s men could rally to such a perfect Serie A start.
After a fantastic five wins in a row, Coral customers could do well to get ahead of the pack and back Milan’s stars in blue and black at a terrific 10/3 for Scudetto success.
The Nerazzurri surprisingly lead the trophy chase and currently sit pretty atop Serie A on 15 points, after taking maximum spoils from their opening fixtures, with current champions Juventus a whopping 12 places behind and bitter city rivals and stadium-sharers AC Milan also trailing.
If that isn’t enough incentive to place a stake on the San Siro side, it is also worth taking note that, unlike both Juve and regular title also-rans Roma, Inter are not involved in European football this term.
It is only early days but, should the Milanese men beat second spot Fiorentina next time out (which they are 3/4 favourites to do on home turf) there would be a significant buffer between the two. With players also fresh and rested every week, Inter have ambitiously reaped the early advantages.
Can Mancini’s men really do it, then? Or will Inter Milan unravel? After all, the failure to qualify for continental competition last campaign must still sting. How swiftly things appear to have changed.
Discounting a Coppa Italia, the Nerazzurri have not tasted serious silverware since 2010. In that somewhat of a scorched earth season, charismatic coach Jose Mourinho lead his devoted charges to an unprecedented Italian treble. Ever since that trio of triumphs, however, the black and blue half of Milan have looked burnt out.
Muddled transfer policies and a change in ownership have not helped but, in an off-season when a host of Serie A big-guns were forced to rebuild, the Lombardy outfit have been quickest to capitalise.
Of course, though, Inter have fallen out of winning routines, Mancini previously had his men dominating the domestic league long before Mourinho arrived, so has the capability to instill that mentality again.
Surely the bubble will burst at some point, and how a first defeat is dealt with may define the season. Nerazzurri support will undoubtedly be pleased with the morale and camaraderie on show in Milan already, however.
Last season one of former Manchester City manager Mancini’s problems, on his return to the Nerazzurri dugout, was an uncharacteristic hemorrhaging of goals.
While the northern Italian team may have lost stars such as Croatian midfield schemer Mateo Kovacic, sold to Real Madrid, and Switzerland international attacker Xherdan Shaqiri, who was shipped-off to Stoke, it has allowed Mancini to shape a more balanced side.
With the Italian tactician’s own picks in place on the peninsula, Inter have conceded just one goal in five, keeping four clean sheets. Much of this is down to heroic goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, but the stopper can not do it all himself, and has found greater consistency having finally been handed a secure spine to shield his net.
Tenacious Chile international Gary Medel has been lauded in his second term after determined defending at centre back, while summer arrivals Geoffrey Kondgobia and Felipe Melo, formerly of Fiorentina and Juventus, have been dogged in the middle of the park.
Having such tough engine-room operators next to energetic Fredy Guarin does not always make for the most flowing football, but does mean Inter are 2/1 to win to nil for the fourth match in a row when facing Viola, or 11/2 for a fifth 1-0 result.
Victories ground out by such narrow margins is said to be the trademark of champions and, with sharpshooters Stevan Jovetic and Mauro Icardi making for a potent partnership, plus new recruits Ivan Perisic and Adem Ljajic yet to adjust, more creativity will surely come. Once it does, Milan may house the Scudetto crown again much sooner than expected.