It won’t be a huge claim to say that a flying Inter side led by Antonio Conte are now one of the top two contenders for the Scudetto this season. Yes, a certain Juventus might have monopolized their stronghold over the Scudetto and have also won the title for the past eight seasons in succession but now more than ever it seems there’s a chance to exploit – one the Nerazzurri are in prime position to take advantage of.
Inter currently top the standings with a two-point lead over Juventus and will be looking to extend that lead further when both sides meet in a fortnight in what could be the most highly anticipated game of the Serie A this season. A win for Inter would put them at least five points clear and would send a proper message Conte and his side mean real business after all.
The Inter hierarchy will be hopeful for a Scudetto return back to San Siro – one they’ve not witnessed since their last League triumph back in 2010. It is surely a difficult task but Conte does boast credentials showing he can achieve this with the crop of players at his disposal.
With that in mind, here are five reasons Inter are now strong favourites to win the Scudetto.
#1 Romelu Lukaku- A refreshed man
The big Belgian has looked like a refreshed man looking to make an impact once again. After joining Antonio Conte’s side from Manchester United for a club-record fee, Lukaku has hit the ground running in Italy, scoring three goals across his first five league games (via Whoscored).
At the age of 26, Lukaku is still relatively young (for a striker) and has his peak ages ahead of him. He would naturally have the physical advantage over the likes of a 34-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo and a 31-year-old Gonzalo Higuain. If strikers would need to pass the test of fitness across a hectic run of fixtures, Lukaku looks well primed to win that battle. Just worth noting that Ronaldo has already missed a game for Juventus this season regarding fitness issues.
Going further, his “lack” of success in his career despite all his goals should be enough motivation to spur him to make his goals count this time around. As per Transfermarkt, the Belgian has over 100 goals to his name but has sadly never won a title for club and country.
On a personal note, it’s interesting to note that the Belgian has also never won a golden boot as well. Seeing himself as the main man under Conte already, he will surely be noting that his odds of winning the capocannoniere award come the end of the season are in well positive numbers. Of course, a striker eager to score goals is what Inter need and that could well work to their advantage in the race for the Scudetto.
Furthermore, his good relationship with Conte could even see the striker hit yet greater heights and numbers as we get into the thick of the season. In summary, he will be a focal point for Inter and would be playing under a manager that sees him as important in the same vein.
#2 Best defence in Europe’s top five leagues
It’s no news that Inter’s defence has looked rock solid this season and it’s no surprise they currently have the best defence in the Serie A.
Only few days ago, a report from Turin based news outlet Tuttosport hailed Inter as having the best joint-defence in Europe alongside Spain’s Athletic Bilbao, with both sides conceding only one goal so far.
However, the 1-1 draw by La Liga’s Bilbao against Leganes yesterday, followed by Inter’s 1-0 win over Lazio means Inter are now alone in the bracket for the best defence in Europe so far.
Also, the 1-0 win to Lazio meant Inter have kept a clean sheet in all their games so far bar the match against Cagliari. That tally of four clean sheets so far is also currently the best of any side in Europe’s top five leagues.
Furthermore, Inter are doing well upfront as well considering only two sides in Atlanta and Napoli (not Juventus) have scored more goals than the Nerazzuri so far. A team scoring goals relatively and keeping goals out is arguably the most important trait of a title-winning side – and Inter have shown that so far.
#3 Antonio Conte’s track record
Conte – a serial winner wherever he goes, already has a track record of winning the Scudetto and there’s no reason to imagine he can’t bring those fortunes to Inter as well. The Italian, who succeeded Luciano Spalletti during the close season, won three successive Serie A titles while in charge of Juve and that experience will help him mould a side in his own form capable of snatching the title from the hands of the Bianconeri.
Maurizio Sarri, on the other hand, is a well-known tactician also but doesn’t boast anything close to Conte in terms of credentials. His Europa League win with former side Chelsea was his first trophy won as a manager and Conte would be looking to use that nerviness to his advantage.
Expect mind games, subtle self-appraisal and tantrums from both managers in the nearest future but if winning is a continuous process – Conte is a man that has proven to win everywhere he goes. And the manner in which his side have started this season only goes further to show his ambitions under his regime.
#4 Goals from all over the pitch
Lukaku might currently be the top scorer in the Inter squad with three goals to his name but the fact that other players are scoring too means Conte doesn’t have to be too reliant on the big Belgian.
The likes of Brozovic and Sensei already have two goals each and some other players have contributed as well. Asides Lukaku, six other Inter players have scored and that will be a huge boost in the latter run-in of the season.
There would be times when Lukaku might go through a rough patch or perhaps an injury keeping him out for a bit. It could mean in that period he would be missed, but not overly as other players are there to step in and score goals as well.
With a certain Alexis Sanchez potentially bringing more goals in the coming future, Inter might have some problems going forward but scoring goals will surely not be an issue.
#5 Over-confidence from the Juventus camp
After winning the Scudetto for seven successive seasons, It’s no doubt that a majority of the Bianconeri squad will have placed the title as some “guaranteed” birth-right prior to the start of every season (rightly so). But over recent years, the emergence of other teams closely challenging Juve for the title could be one to make them crack eventually.
Meaning about 80-90% of the Juventus players will have at least a title to their name and could be affected by complacency thinking Inter will still crack along the way and the normal occurrence of them winning the Scudetto will carry on as usual.
When you consider that a majority of new signings in the Juventus squad were all winners of at least a title in their former clubs in the likes of Ramsey, Rabiot, De Ligt to mention a few, their hunger to perform might not match that of an Inter squad with majority of players looking to make a name and a major impact for their new side.
Juventus winning the Scudetto won’t exactly be classed a “successful” season as it has become common stream in recent years but Inter achieving it will be the ultimate task. That extra hunger and motivation could give Inter more resilience to deliver and on the path of Juventus, it could make them over-confident to their disadvantage.
It might just be five games gone but the Nerazzuri have set the standard high and as it stands, they are looking like the team to beat.