Mancini feeling the pressure as Inter’s season implodes
MILAN (AP) — It all seems to be getting a bit much for Inter Milan coach Roberto Mancini with the Nerazzurri’s season imploding.
Inter spent the festive period top of the league and kicked off 2016 with another win. But it has been downhill since, with a run of two draws and two defeats, including Sunday’s humiliating 3-0 loss to bitter rival AC Milan in the derby.
That came just days after a 3-0 loss at Juventus in the first leg of the Italian Cup semifinals.
Inter fans protested outside the stadium after Sunday’s match and there are signs that the pressure has gotten to Mancini.
The former Manchester City boss became embroiled in a row with Napoli counterpart Maurizio Sarri after Inter’s recent Italian Cup quarterfinal win and stuck his middle finger up to Milan fans after he was sent to the stands Sunday for the second time in less than two weeks.
“We feel really bad for the fans because of this result and Wednesday’s but we need to work hard to improve the situation,” Mancini said. “Obviously our results haven’t been positive in this period. We haven’t performed well but it’s one of those times.
“This is a delicate moment but the only thing we can do is feel bad about it and roll our sleeves up,” he said. “We’ll come through this together. I’m convinced we’ll manage it, I’m sure of it.”
Inter has slipped to fourth, nine points off current leader Napoli. It hosts Chievo Verona, which has conceded four goals in each of its two previous matches.
There are eight other matches Wednesday, with Roma’s game at Sassuolo taking place Tuesday.
Napoli visits Lazio hoping to preserve its two-point advantage over Juventus, which hosts Genoa.
Third-place Fiorentina will look to keep up the pressure on the top two when it welcomes relegation-threatened Carpi.
Also, it’s Frosinone vs. Bologna; Empoli vs. Udinese; Palermo vs. AC Milan; Sampdoria vs. Torino; and Hellas Verona vs. Atalanta.
Some things to know about the midweek round of Italian league matches:
Juventus will be looking to continue a record run when it welcomes Genoa in what could be a tricky match in Turin.
Massimiliano Allegri’s side has won 12 straight in Serie A, matching previous coach Antonio Conte’s all-time club record of 12 consecutive league victories.
“I’m not particularly interested in this record as I’d be upset if we won 20 games on the bounce and then maybe not win the league,” Allegri said. “We’ve fought back well this term and I didn’t expect us to make up ground on our rivals as quickly as we have done but there are still 16 fixtures left and so we need to keep bettering ourselves as we go forward.”
The record winning streak in Serie A is Inter’s 17-match run in 2006-07.
If Juventus wins its next four matches, it would equal Inter’s record with a victory over the Nerazzurri on Feb. 28. But that run of fixtures includes a top-of-the-table clash against Napoli.
MILAN HEADING FOR EUROPE
Milan has been quietly inching up the Serie A table and the emphatic derby win over Inter has fans dreaming of a return to Europe’s elite.
Milan hasn’t qualified for the past two seasons of the Champions League, finishing outside even of the Europa League positions in those campaigns.
But it has crept to within six points of third-place Fiorentina with the two teams between — Inter and Roma — seemingly collapsing.
“Looking at how the other teams above us are doing, we’re not definitively putting aside the hope of us also being able to compete for a Champions League place,” Milan President Silvio Berlusconi said. “We will have to face all those above us and so we will see how things develop.
“Certainly the target which is closer at hand is the Europa League but after nights like this it’s not out of the question that we should be thinking of finishing third. It’s a target not to be ruled out.”
NAPOLI’S NEW MARADONA
Napoli and star striker Gonzalo Higuain have garnered plenty of headlines but another forward now starting to earn the plaudits is Lorenzo Insigne.
Higuain has scored 22 goals in as many league games this season but Insigne, who also has eight assists to his name, has weighed in with another 10 — more than the Italy international has netted in total over the past three seasons.
Between them, the duo have scored more (or as many in Milan’s case) than 15 of the other 19 Serie A teams.
Napoli President Aurelio De Laurentiis said Inisgne’s free kick in Sunday’s 5-1 victory over Empoli was “Maradona-esque.”
Sarri was full of praise for the 24-year-old but insisted Maradona — who led Napoli to its only two league titles in 1987 and 1990 — “should always be left on another planet.”
If Napoli wins at Lazio, Sarri will match Ottavio Bianchi’s club record of seven successive league wins in 1987-88.