Inter’s season has been showing signs of disintegrating for a while now. It does seem that everything is still in control, despite the loss to Lazio at the weekend. But all things don’t seem to be going in Antonio Conte’s direction in recent weeks. Europa League presents another burden but that is a burden worth ignoring.
Ludogorets are unlikely to offer a huge challenge by means. The Bulgarian side have been a rather known opponent for clubs like Arsenal and Liverpool in recent years. But the idea of beating them shouldn’t be seen as a means of fascination for Inter.
Especially when it involves a big trip to Bulgaria on Thursday right before a crucial Serie A game at home to Claudio Ranieri’s Sampdoria. The second leg will be played at home. But it comes days before a gigantic clash against Juventus in Turin. It will be a game that Inter just can’t afford to drop points in.
It isn’t to say that Inter should lose the game to Ludogorets. But the side isn’t exactly the biggest to compete on two fronts, with the title-challenge currently flailing. More than that, winning the Europa League only guarantees a Champions League spot for next season.
It is much more handy for clubs like Roma, Arsenal or Eintracht Frankfurt. All of them are clubs that may not play Champions League football next season. But winning the Europa League gives them a huge chance of doing just that.
The nerazzurri are nine points clear of Atalanta, who occupy the fourth place in the table. While there is still a minute chance that Conte’s men get dragged to the fourth place, Roma’s defeat to La Dea left them six points behind the last Champions League spot.
Of course, winning the Europa League would be an achievement for a manager who’s not won a European title in his career yet. But Conte knows that the title charge isn’t dead yet, considering the gap between them and Juve is still three points.
Conte though, also knows of a problem that this team has. He spoke about it after Inter’s loss to Borussia Dortmund earlier this season. The Italian told Sportmediaset (via FootballItalia):
“Some players have to be on the field constantly and in the long run, you do pay for that. I am furious, because this cancels out all the good work.”
“We are in an emergency situation with only three players injured, whereas other teams have injuries and don’t even notice. We notice.”
That is a hint at a lack of depth in the side. While the club has brought in an extra midfielder in Christian Eriksen and two wing-backs in Ashley Young and Victor Moses, there has been a general tiredness in the side.
That has been evident in games against Lecce, Cagliari and Lazio. The side has become prone to succumbing to goals after being in the lead. That happened in all the three games, leading to dropping of crucial points.
While Eriksen has come in, he’s made just one start. It came against Udinese when he was taken off in the second-half in a bland display. It is clear that the Dane is still getting used to the tactical nature of Serie A. Stefano Sensi is again out due to a hairline fracture, leaving them even more limited options.
Roberto Gagliardini is out as well, meaning there isn’t enough depth to field different teams in two games in the gap of three days.
Players like Marcelo Brozovic, Stefan de Vrij, Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez have been crucial. But they could fall prey to an injury at any point due to over-exertion.
Winning the Serie A for the first time since 2010 would present a massive achievement for the club. Doing that in a competitive campaign such as this would be even more special. They have to make sure that the Europa League doesn’t derail any of the progress they’ve made in that regard.