Leonardo Bonucci admitted an attention-grabbing exchange between Inter boss Antonio Conte and Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli was "bad" but stressed it was in keeping with the heat of battle.

Conte and Agnelli clashed on Tuesday during the second leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final in Turin, a match that ended 0-0 to see Juve prevail 2-1 on aggregate.

Footage appeared to show the ex-Juve boss making a gesture that was reportedly towards Agnelli, who could be heard on a pitch-side microphone making comments aimed at the touchline following the end of the game.

Speaking to RAI after the draw, Conte said Juventus should "tell the truth" over what unfolded, adding: "They should be more polite in my opinion. They need more sportsmanship and respect for those who work."

Juventus defender Bonucci understands that while those involved in top-level football must set an example to the audience watching on, it is not always easy to stay calm in such high-pressure situations.

"There is little to add, the images speak clearly," Bonucci said in an interview with Sky Sport Italia. "What happened is bad, but it is not up to me to judge why it happened or what had to be done.

"Obviously we must always be an example, but sometimes it is difficult. When you step onto the pitch the environmental situation does not make you think.

"In some moments, adrenaline and tension make you become something different than what you would like to be, episodes like this happen, amplified by the empty stage with the sideline microphones that can transmit a sneeze."

Juve had won the first leg 2-1 at San Siro, having previously lost 2-0 at the same venue in January when going up against the Nerazzurri in Serie A action.

Bonucci points to that league defeat as a turning point for the reigning champions of Italy, as Juventus have not lost in seven games since that setback. Their reward for progressing in the Coppa Italia is a final showdown with Atalanta, which takes place in May.

"It represents a small step towards another goal, which is to bring home the trophy. It will be difficult, because Atalanta have been one of the best Italian teams for several years, they have also shown it in Europe," the defender said.

"It will be an unprecedented and complicated final, but there will be the desire to take home the cup.

"For the group it is yet another confirmation that after the match in Milan with Inter something different has taken place in us as a team and as individuals and this bodes well."

Juve switch their focus back to Serie A this weekend, though Bonucci is an injury doubt for Saturday's game away at Napoli due to a muscle issue.

Midfielder Arthur also appears set to miss the fixture after the club revealed he has "the presence of a post-traumatic calcification at the level of the interosseous membrane" in his right leg. The Brazilian will be monitored on a daily basis, though it is unclear when he will return to action.

Antonio Conte was left fuming over a heated post-match exchange with Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli following Inter's Coppa Italia semi-final exit.

The Milan-based side were held to a tense 0-0 draw in the second leg at the Allianz Stadium as the Old Lady advanced to the final, 2-1 on aggregate, before ugly scenes allegedly erupted following the final whistle.

Media outlet RAI reported that Conte made an insulting gesture towards his former employer Agnelli at half-time, and the Juve chief retaliated by verbally abusing the Inter coach as the teams left the field.

Conte criticised his former club's behaviour in his post-match interview but stopped short of pointing any fingers.

"Juventus should tell the truth," Conte told RAI. 

"I think the fourth official heard and saw what happened throughout the match.

"They should be more polite in my opinion. They need more sportsmanship and respect for those who work."

Conte coached in Turin between 2011 and 2014 and led the Bianconeri to three Serie A titles before taking up a role in charge of Italy after the 2014 World Cup.

The 51-year-old was questioned on the incident in his post-match news conference but he refused to elaborate.

"What happened at the end of the game? I have neither the desire nor the pleasure to comment on anything," Conte said.

"I think that in all things there must be education. Enough."

The competition's most successful club, Juventus, advance to the final to face Atalanta or Napoli, as Andrea Pirlo's side search for a 14th Coppa Italia triumph.

Inter need to be as close to perfect as possible if they are to overcome Juventus in their Coppa Italia semi-final on Tuesday, says Antonio Conte.

Juve won the first leg at San Siro last week 2-1, with a double from Cristiano Ronaldo overturning Lautaro Martinez's opener.

Inter bounced back with a 2-0 win at Fiorentina on Friday and need a victory at Allianz Stadium on Tuesday if they are to make the Coppa final for the first time in 10 years.

However, the Nerazzurri have not been victorious away at Juve since a 3-1 triumph in November 2012, while the Bianconeri are unbeaten at home in the Coppa since a 2-1 loss to Fiorentina in March 2015.

Inter beat Juve 2-0 at San Siro in Serie A in January and Conte knows it will be a tall order for them to repeat the trick against his former club.

"We need to go out and play the game with desire and determination like we have shown in the previous two games," Conte told Rai Sport.

"We need to be braver, to build on what happened in the last game and try to be perfect because to beat Juventus you must play a game that borders on perfection.

"Regardless of victory, whoever wears this shirt has an obligation to make our fans proud, this must always be our mission.

"The best way to give the players the conviction to win the game and try to get through the round is through hard work, and preparing for the match in the right way, as we have done."

Antonio Conte was left with "enormous" regret as the Inter head coach rued errors after a Coppa Italia loss to Juventus.

A Cristiano Ronaldo penalty cancelled out Lautaro Martinez's opener before the Juve star scored what proved to be a 35th-minute winner in a 2-1 victory in the semi-final first leg at San Siro on Tuesday.

Ashley Young's foul on Juan Cuadrado led to the spot-kick and Ronaldo's second arrived after Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic came charging out, the Portuguese star tucking into an open goal after dispossessing Alessandro Bastoni.

Conte rued the mistakes made by Inter as they were left with work to do ahead of next week's second leg.

"We did it all today and our regret is enormous. Juventus didn't have to work for their goals and I don’t remember Handanovic having to make any big saves," he told Rai Sport.

"We committed two gross errors that gifted them the lead. I think the team did really well and the boys gave it their all.

"As always, we created a lot and put Juventus under immense pressure but we need to be more clinical because goals make the difference."

For the first time since April 2000, Inter have conceded at least one goal in 10 consecutive matches in the Coppa Italia.

Conte accepted turning the tie around would be tough for Inter, as he turns his focus to Friday's Serie A clash against Fiorentina.

"We'll need to win by two goals and not concede. This obviously won't be a walk in the park because Juve are a strong side," he said.

"Anything can happen but we need to recharge and think about our game in Florence in two days. It'll be a tough game in all aspects.

"After that, we'll prepare for the second leg."

Antonio Conte muttered to himself and looked rather resigned as Arturo Vidal angrily gestured towards him while being replaced by Christian Eriksen on Tuesday. Perhaps he realised his errors had already done irreparable damage.

Juventus went on to put one foot in the Coppa Italia final with a 2-1 win at Inter in their semi-final first leg, with Conte seemingly made to rue a tactical set-up that invited pressure in the absence of talisman Romelu Lukaku.

While Inter's second-half display in San Siro showed evidence of Conte wising up to his team's problems, it was too little, too late as the Nerazzurri were unable to rescue a game lost in the first half.

A chief component of Inter's struggles here was rooted in last week's quarter-final win over bitter rivals Milan, as Lukaku's much-discussed altercation with Zlatan Ibrahimovic resulted in a yellow card for the Belgian.

The pair went head-to-head in ugly scenes that were accentuated by the lack of a crowd, every word of Ibrahimovic's questionable antagonising audible thanks to the television cameras and microphones.

Whether Lukaku's reaction was justified is a discussion for another day, but beyond doubt is the fact he was sorely missed by Conte's men, whose lack of an out-ball left them without options.

Alexis Sanchez, who ultimately remained with Inter at the end of the transfer window despite links to Roma, was the man chosen to partner Lautaro Martinez and the Chilean initially showed reason for optimism.

After holding the ball up admirably and working space on the break in the ninth minute, Sanchez fed Nicolo Barella up the right flank and his low cross was turned home by Martinez – his shot creeping under the hand of Gianluigi Buffon's hand.

It wasn't the ideal way to celebrate the 43-year-old's 1,100th professional game, but the Inter defence ensured the spotlight wouldn't be on Buffon's error for long.

First, Ashley Young took centre stage a little over 15 minutes later, bizarrely opting to haul back Juan Cuadrado in the box despite Federico Bernardeschi's cross always looking incapable of doing any damage, and Ronaldo slammed the resulting penalty right down the middle.

Ronaldo then capitalised on a mix-up between Alessandro Bastoni and Samir Handanovic, robbing the defender and slotting in from a tight angle outside of the box with the goalkeeper stranded.

Inter dug their own hole with their poor decision-making, and without Lukaku they were without the means to haul themselves out.

Neither Young nor Matteo Darmian on the flanks – the latter in for the absent Achraf Hakimi – could offer any kind of attacking support in the first half, with both failing to deliver a single cross before the interval.

Then, with Sanchez and Martinez largely unable to impose themselves against the physically dominant Merih Demiral and Matthijs de Ligt, Inter's options when looking to move out from the back were minimal.

And that was another issue – in the first half, Inter were very deep and endured great difficulty trying to play through Juve's press. It might have been effective with players potentially trying to get in behind the visitors' defence, but Andrea Pirlo's side subjugated their hosts virtually throughout the opening half.

Conte's tweaks at the break saw Inter's backline move further up the pitch and that certainly seemed to improve their standing in the match – Juve's share of the possession going from 63 per cent in the first half to just 40 in the second.

Similarly, Inter's shot count rocketed from two at half-time to 11 at the end, and, to be fair, Sanchez should have taken one of those when his goal-bound effort was stopped on the line by Demiral.

Additionally, Buffon made amends for his first-half error by making a crucial stop to deny Darmian, but otherwise there were few moments when Juve looked especially worried defensively.

On another day perhaps Inter would have done enough to at least keep themselves on level terms ahead of the second leg, but Conte's negative set-up left them at a disadvantage right from the off.

Lukaku will return for the next game, but Juve's away goals advantage gives them a significant edge – Conte has much work to do.

Andrea Pirlo exudes composure and shows little emotion on the sidelines but that is only half the story according to Christian Vieri, who believes the "fun" first-year head coach can lead Juventus to a clean sweep of silverware in Turin.

Eyebrows were raised when nine-time reigning Serie A champions Juve turned to club great but unproven coach Pirlo following the dismissal of Maurizio Sarri at the end of the 2019-20 season.

Pirlo had only re-joined Juve as Under-23s head coach a week earlier before the Bianconeri gave the 41-year-old his first senior coaching role at the Italian powerhouse, where he won four Scudetto titles among other honours during an illustrious playing career.

While there have been teething issues and a stuttering start, World Cup winner Pirlo has already tasted success for the first time as a coach in the Supercoppa Italiana, while Juve are seven points off the pace in Serie A, through to the Champions League last 16 and preparing for Tuesday's mouth-watering Coppa Italia semi-final against Inter.

Vieri spent time with Pirlo at Inter and within the Italy national team and he talked up the playful side of his former team-mate – who remains in the hunt for a Serie A, Champions League and Coppa Italia treble in his maiden season at the helm.

"Listen, Juventus can win anything every year. They have a fantastic side," Vieri, who won the 1997 Scudetto with Juve before later joining Inter for a then-world record fee in 1999, told Stats Perform News. "When you have Cristiano Ronaldo with you, you always start 1-0.

"Pirlo is a fun guy. He is the opposite of what everyone sees. He is a fun dude, he takes the p*** out of you the whole day.

"Of course, everyone is different on TV, right? He is calmer. You never see him go crazy. He is the opposite of [Antonio] Conte. You see Conte, it's like he is playing.

"It's his first experience. He is having a good time. He won a trophy already. You win games and lose games, it's part of coaching. Maybe lose more games than win, some coaches do that. But he is happy coaching, that's what he wanted to do.

"He has an amazing team. He can everything this season. Let's see what happens. Nine years in a row winning the Scudetto, of course, sooner or later you will lose it because motivation-wise, you can't have that motivation every year."

Inter will host Juventus in the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final at San Siro on Tuesday.

It will be a chance for Juve to avenge their previous Derby d'Italia loss to Inter, who outclassed Pirlo's men 2-0 in Serie A action on January 17.

Inter – boasting the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez, Achraf Hakimi and Nicolo Barella – are widely viewed as the favourites to put an end to Juve's domestic dominance, which dates back to 2011.

The Nerazzurri, where Vieri spent six successful years, are second and only two points behind leaders Milan through 20 Serie A matchdays.

But Italian great Vieri believes Juve remain the "strongest team in Italy" due to their depth.

"They have 23 fantastic players," the 47-year-old added. "They have a big, long bench. [Paulo] Dybala stays on the bench, [Juan] Cuadrado stays on the bench, Arthur stays on the bench… they're fantastic players.

"I don't think the other benches are as strong as Juve's. I think Juve are still the strongest. But motivation wise, you can't win forever.

"Inter have a fantastic team this season. Hakimi, [Arturo] Vidal, [Ashley] Young, [Alessandro] Bastoni, they're all good players. They're solid, more solid defensively than three-four months ago. Up front they're fantastic. Anyone can win.

"Against Juve, Inter played fantastically [in Serie A]. Technical wise, physically. Let's see what happens in the semi-final."

Andrea Pirlo cited the 2-0 loss to Inter in January as a turning point for in-form Juventus as they prepare to face Antonio Conte's side once again, this time in the Coppa Italia. 

Arturo Vidal and Nicolo Barella scored the goals as Inter deservedly triumphed at San Siro last month, the defeat inflicting further damage on the reigning champions in their bid for a 10th straight Serie A title. 

However, since that setback in Milan, Juve have won four games in a row without conceding. That run includes lifting the Supercoppa Italiana at the expense of Napoli, as well as a Coppa Italia quarter-final success over second-tier SPAL. 

Next up in the competition is a two-legged tie with Inter and, having been second best in the previous meeting, Pirlo is confident his side learned a valuable lesson from that game.

"I want to see a team aware of their strength," Pirlo - who confirmed Gianluigi Buffon will start in goal - told the club's television channel.

"It will be the first round, because it's a 180-minute game, so tomorrow it will be important to manage it well, because it won't be decisive.  

"The match against Inter in the league taught a lot, first of all, when we are not on the right track, we are not ourselves, but from there we started with great performances.” 

As for Conte, he is wary of a repeat of what happened to Inter in the competition in the 2019-20 season, when they lost 1-0 at home to Napoli in the first leg of the semi-final. A 1-1 draw was not enough in the return fixture, meaning they were knocked out by the eventual winners. 

"You always need to be very respectful of very strong teams, and we'll certainly need to put in an excellent performance,” the former Chelsea boss told the media.

"The upcoming 180 minutes will determine who progresses, and the first match will be important. Last year, we lost 1-0 to Napoli at home and didn't manage to turn things around at the San Paolo despite playing very well. We will need to perform and try to do our best."

The Nerazzurri will be without Romelu Lukaku on Tuesday due to suspension after he received a yellow card for his part in a confrontation with Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the previous round. 

Conte, though, is confident he has enough strength in depth at the position to cover for the absence of the influential Belgian. Lukaku scored twice at the weekend against Benevento in Serie A action, taking his tally for the campaign in the league to 14 goals in 16 appearances. 

"It's not the first time that Romelu has been missing," Conte said. "We will have Alexis and Lautaro, who I'm sure will do well.  

"Romelu is feeling good, he responded on the pitch and scored two goals against Benevento. Now, he's being forced to rest due to his suspension and will work hard to be in good shape when he returns in the league."

Inter forward Lautaro Martinez said he is in advanced talks with the club over a new contract.

The Argentina international's existing deal does not run out until the end of the 2022-23 season, but he has been linked with a move away from Inter.

Martinez has scored 41 goals and supplied 12 assists in 112 games in all competitions for Inter since he joined them from Racing Club in July 2018.

Speaking after Inter's 4-0 win over Benevento on Saturday, Martinez said he is on course to commit his future to the Nerazzurri.

"We're looking for that," Martinez told DAZN, when asked if he close to signing a deal until 2024.

"I'm happy at Inter, everyone behaves very well with me."

Martinez ended a run of four Serie A games without a goal against Benevento as victory ensured Antonio Conte's side kept the pressure up on leaders Milan.

The 23-year-old was guilty of missing a number of chances in the match as he took his tally against promoted teams to eight in 14 appearances.

"Of course, I'm a striker and I have to score but I work for the team," he added.

"I have to improve. I want to do it every day, give my best for Inter and for the coach to see it.

"There are many easy goals that I don't score, and I score one that I haven't tried. But the important thing is that Inter win, I work to give my best. We are happy."

Martinez's fellow striker Romelu Lukaku scored twice even though his performance was far from a vintage one.

"He is very important for us, today even at a low level he scored two goals," Martinez explained.

"We are happy, we work for this and we are happy if Inter win. Then if we score, it's better."

Romelu Lukaku scored twice as Inter kept the pressure up on Serie A leaders Milan with a confident 4-0 home victory over Benevento on Saturday.

Antonio Conte's side took the lead through a Riccardo Improta own goal in the seventh minute and were never really troubled at San Siro.

Lautaro Martinez ended a run of four Serie A games without a goal with a fine finish for Inter's second as he took his tally against newly promoted teams to eight in 14 appearances.

Lukaku then wrapped up the points for Inter when he scored twice with clinical finishes after smart assists from Martinez and Alexis Sanchez.

Antonio Conte has told Christian Eriksen he must show more than free-kick prowess to establish himself at Inter.

Former Tottenham midfielder Eriksen netted a trademark set-piece effort to settle Tuesday's fiery Coppa Italia derby against Milan deep into stoppage time.

The Denmark international was understandably mobbed by his team-mates and Conte said afterwards that the Inter squad "love" a player whose career at San Siro has failed to catch fire since joining from Spurs 12 months ago.

Nevertheless, he struck a more measured tone ahead of Saturday's home game against Benevento.

"In rugby they have players who are kickers and are set-piece specialists. Football is very different," he said, when asked at a pre-match news conference whether Eriksen might start.

"We hope to have him play a part in all areas, not just from free-kicks and set-plays.

"We know that Inter have struggled from free-kicks until recently. It is an extra weapon to have a free-kick specialist."

Conte is also reportedly keen on an extra weapon in attack, although he refused to be drawn too far into discussing speculation that Inter might sign out-of-favour Roma striker Edin Dzeko, with Alexis Sanchez moving in the opposite direction.

"I have not asked for anything from the club, let us start by saying that," he said.

"If someone has said that, then it is not the case. We have this squad and that is the way it is.

"It is not the coach who goes asking for players all the time. I have had little to say so far this season

"Dzeko is a Roma player I have respect for him. I have respect for my players too

"The situation is clear – this is our squad and that is the situation. If someone is unhappy and ask to go then that is different.

"We will make that player happy. Otherwise I cannot foresee changes.

"We know the situation we find ourselves in. We cannot create situations that are not there. We need to focus on working hard.

"We need to look ahead and accept this situation we are in.

"It is not right to talk about things that can distract the side. I do not want distractions from my players."

On Sanchez, he added: "Sanchez is an Inter player and needs to stay focused."

Conte will be absent from the bench against Benevento as he serves a touchline ban, while top scorer Romelu Lukaku is also suspended after collecting his fifth booking of the season against Milan.

That followed a heated confrontation with Zlatan Ibrahimovic that continued after the half-time whistle.

The veteran Milan striker was sent off for a second booking when he fouled Aleksandar Kolarov during the second half and has been forced to deny allegations that he racially abused Lukaku.

"It has been spoken about a lot," Conte said.

"I do not know and I'm not interested. My task is to be a coach and I focus on that area."

Antonio Conte suggested Christian Eriksen would remain at Inter after his stunning derby winner against Milan, saying the midfielder was loved at the club.

Eriksen curled in a wonderful 25-yard free-kick in the 97th minute to lift Inter to a 2-1 victory in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals on Tuesday.

The Denmark international has been linked with a move after making just four Serie A starts this season, but Conte said Eriksen was needed at Inter.

"I am sure [the goal] has given energy to [Eriksen] and to us. I pushed him to take that set-piece because he is really good at that," the Inter head coach told a news conference.

"He is a good lad. Everybody loves him, we love him. He fitted well [in the team]. He is a bit shy.

"I hope this goal will give him more confidence because we need him. We need everybody considering the situation. I am happy for him and I am happy because we qualified."

Eriksen's free-kick settled an explosive derby, in which Zlatan Ibrahimovic opened the scoring before being sent off, having also been involved in an earlier confrontation with Romelu Lukaku.

Ibrahimovic was red-carded in a game played in Europe for the first time since March 2015 and Inter took advantage, Lukaku levelling from the penalty spot before Eriksen's winner.

Of players in Europe's top five leagues, only Lionel Messi, Hakan Calhanoglu, Miralem Pjanic and Cristiano Ronaldo have scored more direct free-kick goals than Eriksen's 13 since 2013-14.

Inter had 27 shots to Milan's five and 10 on target to their rivals' one, and Conte said his side needed to be more clinical.

"The squad was in full spirit and energy since the beginning of the game. I think it was not fair to be one goal down against Milan. We had many chances even 11 against 11," he said.

"If I have to find a negative thing, it will be the chances created without goals. We have to be more clinical, more pragmatic.

"Milan's goalkeeper [Ciprian Tatarusanu] has been the man of the match. He made incredible saves."

Inter, who are two points adrift of Milan in Serie A, host Benevento on Saturday.

Antonio Conte professed to be happy at the sight of Romelu Lukaku getting angry with Zlatan Ibrahimovic during Inter's Coppa Italia win over Milan.

Inter ultimately triumphed 2-1 thanks to a late Christian Eriksen free-kick, but that does not tell the full story of the match, which Milan initially led thanks to Ibrahimovic.

The Swede was involved in an altercation with Lukaku just before half-time as the former Manchester United colleagues squared up to each other and went head-to-head – it then continued after the referee ended the first half, with Inter players forced to hold their team-mate back.

Television footage and audio appeared to show Ibrahimovic yelling at Lukaku: "Go do your voodoo s***."

That may have been a reference by Ibrahimovic to claims made by Everton owner Farhad Moshiri in January 2018 that Lukaku, who left the Merseyside club six months earlier, strenuously denied.

After Tuesday's game, Lukaku did not immediately publicly address Ibrahimovic's on-pitch behaviour.

Inter and Lukaku ultimately had the last laugh, as Ibrahimovic was sent off in the second half and the Belgian equalised from the spot before Eriksen sealed their spot in the semi-finals with a lovely free-kick.

"If he gets angry every now and then, it just makes me happy," Conte told RAI Sport after the game.

"I've been a player. It is a derby, not a walk for your health. During the game, tempers are high and in some situations you get angry. The important thing is that everything remains in the right dimension.

"I was pleased to see Romelu so focused. He had a disagreement with someone [Ibrahimovic] who has the wickedness of a winner and a warrior, he does not want to lose. Romelu is growing from this point of view. For us it is important."

Antonio Conte has been given a two-match ban after he was shown a red card in the closing stages of Inter's goalless Serie A draw at Udinese on Saturday.

Conte was also fined €20,000 by Lega Serie A on Tuesday following a rant at referee Fabio Maresca as the Nerazzurri dropped points in the title race.

The Inter head coach was sanctioned after venting his fury over the number of minutes that were added on at the end of the game and continued his protests after the final whistle.

Inter team manager Lele Oriali was suspended for one game and hit in the pocket to the tune of €5,000 for his post-game protests.

Second-placed Inter face arch-rivals Milan in the quarter-finals of the Coppa Italia on Tuesday before returning to Serie A action against Benevento on Saturday, then take on Fiorentina six days later.

Conte's men trail leaders Milan by two points in the battle for the Scudetto.

Inter beat Juventus. Juventus beat Milan. Milan beat Inter. For once it has been tough to predict the title race in Serie A.

Winning the Scudetto was not enough for Maurizio Sarri to keep his job at Juve last season, meaning Andrea Pirlo is under significant pressure as the Bianconeri chase a 10th straight league crown.

However, they have struggled to convince under the former midfield metronome and sit seven points adrift of leaders Milan in fourth, although they hold a game in hand.

There has seemingly never been a better chance for Inter, who are two points off top in second, and Milan to end Scudetto droughts that date back to 2009-10 and 2010-11 respectively.

Fans and pundits will continue to have their say on who will sit top come the end of the season, and the Stats Perform AI team have also crunched the numbers to predict the champions for the 2020-21 campaign.

With the majority of the 20 teams having reached the halfway stage of the league campaign, they have simulated how the rest of the season may play out.

 

The data model estimates the probability of each match outcome – either a win, draw or loss – based on each team's attacking and defensive quality.

Those ratings are allocated based on four years' worth of comprehensive historic data points and results, with more weighting given to recent matches to account for improvements or declines in form and performance trends.

The AI simulation takes into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes goals against and rewards them accordingly.

All that data is used to simulate upcoming matches using goal predictions from the Poisson distribution – a detailed mathematical model – with the two teams' attacking and defending ratings used as inputs.

The outcome of the season is then simulated on 10,000 different occasions in order to generate the most accurate possible percentage chance of each team finishing in their ultimate league position.

Without further ado, let's have a good look at the results of the simulation with the predicted final league table.

 

INTER END JUVE'S REIGN

Although they sit second at the halfway stage, our model predicts Inter will end Juve's dominance of Serie A.

Inter have a 35.7 per cent chance of topping the table for the first time since their treble-winning campaign of 2009-10 and it is projected they will do so by a two-point advantage.

Not only do Milan surrender top spot to the Nerazzurri, they slip behind Juve into third with the top three separated by just three points. It would still represent their best finish since 2012-13.

Juve's chance of retaining the title is deemed to be 23.1 per cent, marginally better than Milan's 21.6 per cent.

ATALANTA RETURN TO CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Gian Piero Gasperini steered Atalanta to Champions League qualification for the first time in their history in 2018-19 and made it back-to-back top-three finishes last season.

They are predicted to return to Europe's premier club competition by finishing fourth, edging out Napoli – they even have a 6.8 per cent chance of pulling off an unlikely title win.

Gennaro Gattuso's side have a 17 per cent probability of snatching the final Champions League qualification berth, with Atalanta's prospects narrowly superior at 17.4 per cent.

Roma are predicted to fall from their current position of third down to sixth but that is still good enough for them to deny arch-rivals Lazio qualification to the inaugural Europa Conference League.

The top six may need to beware of Sassuolo, Hellas Verona and Sampdoria, however. Sassuolo have a 0.3 per cent likelihood of finishing inside the top four, while Verona (0.6 per cent) and Sampdoria (0.3 per cent) also have an outside chance of stealing European qualification, though our predictor suggests Lazio will finish 12 points clear of Sassuolo in seventh.

 

GENOA AND TORINO ESCAPE DROP

At the turn of the year Torino were rock bottom with one win from their opening 14 games and Genoa were in the relegation zone with them.

However, Torino and Genoa have both moved out of the bottom three by claiming six points and eight points respectively over their past five games.

The two sides are predicted to maintain strong enough form to stay out of the drop zone, with Crotone (20th), Parma (19th) and Cagliari (18th) projected to suffer relegation to Serie B.

It is by no means a guarantee, though. Genoa are only 0.2 per cent more likely to come 17th than they are to suffer relegation by finishing 18th, while Torino's differential between 15th – where they are predicted to place – and third-bottom is 2.7 per cent.

Frank Lampard's appointment as Chelsea head coach was widely heralded by the club's fanbase, who were desperate for a returning hero to succeed in the dugout.

Just 18 months later and Lampard – the club's record all-time leading goalscorer who won 11 major honours at Stamford Bridge – has been sacked.

The Blues have proven in the past there is little time for sentimentality or to dwell on past successes and not even a player with the stature Lampard holds at the club has been granted extra time.

Lampard's first season in charge brought a top-four finish and an FA Cup final but a run of just two wins in eight league matches saw Chelsea wield the axe with the team ninth and 11 points off top.

A huge close-season recruitment drive that saw the likes of Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech and Ben Chilwell arrive perhaps gave the Blues hierarchy itchy feet and brought about the end for Lampard.

With that in mind, we have looked at some hits and misses when players have returned to a club as boss.

HITS

Pep Guardiola

After leaving Barcelona as a player in 2001, Guardiola returned as the Barca B boss in 2007 before being promoted to head coach of the first team a year later. Over four years in charge at Camp Nou he led the Blaugrana to 14 trophies, including three LaLiga titles and two Champions League crowns. Success has continued to come Guardiola's way with Bayern Munich and Manchester City.

Zinedine Zidane

World Cup winner Zidane was part of Real Madrid's 'Galacticos' in the early 2000s and he finished his playing career at the Santiago Bernabeu. Like Guardiola, he returned to oversee the second team before stepping up to the top job after the departure of Rafael Benitez in January 2016. Zidane went on to win an unprecedented three successive Champions League titles with Madrid before stepping down in May 2018, only to return 10 months later. He has already won LaLiga and the Supercopa de Espana in his second stint, though a slump this term has left his long-term future shrouded in doubt.

Antonio Conte

In 13 seasons as a player for Juventus, Conte won almost everything there is to win – five league titles, the Coppa Italia, the Champions League and the UEFA Cup. He moved into management two years after retiring and worked his way back to Juve after spells with Arezzo, Bari, Atalanta and Siena. Juve won three straight Scudetti under Conte – the start of their ongoing dominance – before he accepted the Italy job in 2014. Conte is now battling to end the Bianconeri's domestic dominance as head coach of Inter.

Roberto Di Matteo

Di Matteo accepted the top job at Chelsea in 2012, having previously been assistant to Andre Villas-Boas. Di Matteo – who won the FA Cup twice with the Blues as a player – went on to lift two trophies as Chelsea boss, including their first Champions League title with a penalty shoot-out win over Bayern, but he was discarded early in the following season.

MISSES

Alan Shearer

Record Premier League goalscorer, Newcastle United legend and lethal England striker – Shearer's playing career was full of success. When he retired in 2006, Shearer moved into television as a pundit, but when the Magpies came calling in 2009 he stepped in to try to save them from relegation. Sadly for Shearer he was unsuccessful, his eight-game reign ending in Newcastle slipping out of the top flight after a 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa on the final day.

Filippo Inzaghi

Employing former players as head coaches had previously worked well for Milan – Fabio Capello and Carlo Ancelotti proving particularly successful. When the Rossoneri turned to Inzaghi in 2014 after Clarence Seedorf's brief tenure, the move was therefore no surprise. However, the former striker – who won eight major trophies at the club in his playing days – flopped, winning just 14 of his 40 matches in charge as Milan finished 10th, their worst league position in 17 years.

Thierry Henry

Henry made his name at Monaco after breaking into the first team in 1994, the forward going on to become a world champion and a Premier League icon with Arsenal. After a period as youth coach with the Gunners, Henry was named as Belgium boss Roberto Martinez's assistant. Permanent roles with Bordeaux and Aston Villa were mooted, but in October 2018 Henry chose Monaco. He lasted just three months, losing 11 of his 20 matches in charge across all competitions before being replaced by Leonardo Jardim, the man he had succeeded.

Juan Jose Lopez

One of the most decorated players in River Plate history, having won seven league titles in an 11-year spell, Lopez was a popular appointment after making a strong impact in his second period as caretaker manager in 2010. However, he subsequently presided over a poor 2011 Clausura campaign, forcing River into a relegation play-off against Belgrano, who won 3-1 on aggregate. It was the first time River dropped out of the top tier, sparking riots which left many people injured.

JURY'S OUT

Mikel Arteta

Arteta served Arsenal with distinction as a player between 2011 and 2016, captaining the club and winning the FA Cup twice. Success in football's oldest cup competition followed last term, with Arteta having replaced Unai Emery in December 2019. After finishing eighth, Arsenal defeated Liverpool on penalties to win the Community Shield but eight defeats from 19 league games in this campaign have left Arsenal 11th and 13 points off top spot.

Andrea Pirlo

Lampard's opportunity at Chelsea arrived when Maurizio Sarri departed for Juventus, but his stint in charge at the Bianconeri lasted just one season despite winning the Serie A title. Pirlo won four Scudetti, the Supercoppa Italiana twice and the Coppa Italia during a four-year stint as a player in Turin and was appointed head coach just a week after being installed as Under-23 boss. So far it has been a mixed bag in Juve's hunt for a 10th straight title, with six draws and two defeats in 18 matches leaving them seven points back of league leaders Milan – albeit they do have a game in hand. Pirlo also collected a first trophy courtesy of victory over Napoli in the Supercoppa Italiana last week.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.