Inter and Napoli ready to banish Champions League disappointment

By Sports Desk March 16, 2024

Inter Milan and Napoli will both look to put Champions League disappointment behind them when they meet in Serie A on Sunday.

Napoli exited the competition in the last 16 on Tuesday, beaten 4-2 on aggregate by Barcelona, and a day later Inter lost out to Atletico Madrid on penalties following a 2-2 draw.

The result was a bitter pill to swallow for the runaway Serie A leaders, who were on a run of 13 consecutive victories in all competitions and had hoped to go one better than last season, when they were beaten in the Champions League final by Manchester City.

Inter went two up in the tie but Atletico fought back to level through Memphis Depay’s goal late in normal time and, after missed chances for Simone Inzaghi’s side in extra-time, they missed three of their five penalties, with Lautaro Martinez sending the final effort high over the bar.

Inter seem certain to lift silverware this season domestically, going into the weekend 16 points clear of nearest rivals AC Milan.

And Inzaghi said on the club website: “The lads have to be proud of what they’ve done. It’s normal to be disappointed, because it’s a shame when it comes down to penalties.

“Now we’ve got 10 Serie A matches we need to play well to try to reach that crucial goal of ours. We’ve got to try and recover physically and mentally to give it our best shot against the reigning champions. We’ll try and do our best.”

Napoli’s title defence has been distinctly underwhelming and they are sweating on the fitness of striker Victor Osimhen, who missed training for two days this week with a muscle problem.

They have not given up hope of forcing their way into the European places, with victory over Juventus earlier this month a much-needed boost, although they were then held at home by Torino.

Napoli are on their third manager of the season in Francesco Calzona, who was appointed until the end of the campaign last month and also holds the position of Slovakia coach.

He insisted he is not concerned about his future, saying on Sky Sports Italia: “Let’s think about the championship, there are many games and we have to cradle the dream of catching up with the teams that are ahead of us.

“It’s difficult, but mathematics doesn’t condemn us. As for me, my future is the last thing on my mind. The boys are working hard and giving me a lot, I think we’ve made a small step forward.”

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