ROME: Pazza Inter? Forget about it. The only crazy thing about this version of the Nerazzurri is that it’s taken this long for them to get some breathing room at the top of the Serie A table.
The Nerazzurri’s billing as many punters’ pre-season title favourites was nothing new – the same could have been said for the last two years when AC Milan and Napoli pipped them to the post.
But now we’re finally seeing the kind of swaggering dominance from the Milanese club that has been expected for some time, but was previously derailed by moments of madness.
Last season, the pazza shone through in good and bad ways: a 95th-minute winner in a seven-goal thriller against Fiorentina, a two-goal lead surrendered in a draw with Monza, and collapses against Udinese, Spezia, Bologna and Empoli. The old nickname wasn’t undeserved.
While some may point to a home loss against Sassuolo and bonkers 3-3 comeback draw in a Champions League dead rubber at Benfica for evidence of more of the same in 2023/24, the truth is that Inter‘s Scudetto bid has so far been characterised by surgeon-like precision rather than unpredictable chaos.
If their jaw-dropping run to the Champions League final and admirable performance in defeat to Manchester City did one thing, it took the fear out of this side.
No longer do they look like they might crumble at the first sign of trouble, like a two-goal lead still can’t be considered a safe margin.
Their trip to Lazio on Sunday night was a good example of this. Much is made in Italian football of the bestia nera, the jinx games that can trip up a season. For Inter, a trip to the Stadio Olimpico was just one of those moments. They hadn’t come to the capital and beaten Lazio in Serie A in more than five years, and Simone Inzaghi had lost on each of his two previous visits back to his old stomping ground.
Although the night ended with boos tumbling down from the stands from the Lazio home fans exasperated by the collapse in level they’ve seen from their side this season, it started with a balanced, compelling encounter that swayed from end to end.
When big chances are few and far between, a result can hinge on who avoids mistakes, and Lazio were found wanting in that regard, Adam Marusic assisting Lautaro Martinez for the opener.
It was a brutally clnically display from Inter, who rode out some pressure early in the second half before scoring on the hour mark with to go 2-0 up with their second shot on target.
It summed up the Nerazzurri this season. In ThuLa, they have a ruthless strike partnership who will gobble up goals from whatever scraps they are given to feed off.
Inter have the best attack in Serie A by a mile, scoring 39 goals in 16 games, 10 more than the next-highest scorers AC Milan.
They also have the strongest defence, conceding only seven times in 16 games and keeping four consecutive clean sheets in all competitions.
Inzaghi‘s side are now on a 15-match unbeaten run and managed to rotate their talent-packed squad to qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League with time to spare.
In short, they are the real deal. They are by far the strongest team in the division.
And now they’ve pulled away on top, it’s difficult to see anything other than a career-first league title going Inzaghi‘s way come the end of the season.