Cagliari vs. Inter Milan: Misery for Nerazzurri Continues
Injuries haven't been kind to Inter in recent weeks, and with various key players sidelined it has ultimately resulted in knocking them out of their stride in the final stretch of the season.
Rodrigo Palacio and Antonio Cassano were the latest additions to a long list of players missing from the starting lineup, and as a result their hopes of Champions League football appear to be disappearing.
Following Sunday’s 2-0 defeat to Cagliari, Andrea Stramaccioni’s side are now eight points adrift of city rivals Milan, ahead of the Rossoneri’s clash with Napoli. In a season which looked so promising back in November, there is even a possibility that European football may well evade them entirely.
Despite the injuries, perhaps their biggest weakness has been their inconsistency this season. It was evident again on Sunday, with some impressive play mixed with confusion and disorganisation at the back.
There were flashes of brilliance, with Tommaso Rocchi and Esteban Cambiasso linking up well in the first half with the latter sending his chipped finish off the post. Ricky Alvarez and Fredy Guarin threatened to snatch all three points, with the Argentine in particular a creative spark for the Nerazzurri.
Can Inter qualify for Europe next season?
While they are still desperate to address the need of a replacement or alternative for Diego Milito, the upcoming summer transfer window also represents a perfect opportunity to strengthen other areas of the squad.
Cagliari striker Victor Ibarbo caused the Inter backline problems all afternoon with his direct running and pace, and was unlucky not to have got himself on the scoresheet.
It was another impressive performance from the Colombian, who could develop into a top player if he can add goals to his game on a consistent basis.
Scoring duty was thus left to Mauricio Pinilla, who came off the bench to grab a brace and secure the win for the "home" side. Cagliari’s ongoing stadium issues ensured the game was played at the Stadio Nereo Rocco in Trieste.
There was further controversy for Inter, who felt they should have been awarded a spot-kick of their own in the first half, as well as Pinilla's opener coming after a questionable decision. Having already had two penalty claims rejected, it was third time lucky for Cagliari, who made no mistake from the spot.
Stramaccioni cursed the injury luck his side are currently having, as well as the decisions from the officials.
"It's a huge emergency situation we are in, but ultimately Cagliari deserved to win. Having said that, once again the penalty was non-existent and affected a team that was already dealing with massive difficulties," he told reporters after the game, according to Football-Italia.net.
"Today the referee was conned by Pinilla, whereas last week with Atalanta there was nothing there at all. It really is a cursed campaign, how can you give a penalty like that?" he added.
Inter have now lost four of their last five league games, and look devoid of confidence, particularly after falling behind. While the return of key players would undoubtedly aid their bid to rescue their season, Stramaccioni faces a real task to rejuvenate them for the remaining seven games.
They face Parma next weekend, ahead of a clash against a Palermo side desperately fighting off the risk of relegation. Stramaccioni’s men then face Napoli and Lazio to start off May, in what is a difficult run-in to the season end.
Whether they will be one of Serie A’s representatives in Europe next season remains to be seen. Their immediate concern will now be on Wednesday's Coppa Italia semifinal against Roma.
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