Internazionale had an amazing 2010, winning Serie A (Scudetto), the Italian Cup, the Italian Super Cup, the UEFA Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup titles. Repeating will be extremely difficult. While all are important, generally success begins with winning its own league title. That will not be as easy this year. Inter has begun 2011 with its third coach in two seasons in Leonardo, who less than a year ago was coaching arch rival AC Milan. AC Milan is a different team since Leonardo left and is the biggest threat to Inter's chances of repeating as winners of the Scudetto. Here are 10 things Inter will need to do to keep their hold on the Scudetto.
Inter is healthier than it was a month ago at this time and that will be key in the Champions League and in the race to win the Scudetto.
Inter must united under Leonardo. Many players have already expressed their difficulty with previous manager Rafael Benitez. They have also come out and publicly supported Leonardo.
Luca Castellazzi is a solid backup goalkeeper, but he is not a replacement for Julio Cesar, who is out and expected back in the next month.
Attacking midfielder Sneijder is one of the other key players who is currently injured. Sneijder is expected to return within the next month.
Inter made a big move to pry the young Italian central defender away from Genoa earlier this month. He is the first major acquisition of an Italian player by the club in a number of years.
Ranocchia hasn't been an instant starter. Whether or not he deserves the role remains to be seen. But one thing that is certain is that Ranocchia will be needed in some big matches because veterans Ivan Cordoba and Marco Materazzi cannot hold up all season as the replacements for Walter Samuel, who is out for the season.
Santon just turned 20 years old and there have been rumors that Inter has considered selling or loaning him. The bottom line is Santon is a great wing back who simply needs to be a regular substitute if not a starter with a top club. Perhaps Inter's depth is the only reason why Santon doesn't play more often. But when he has played, he has shown that he is capable of playing with the best. He also provides a set of young legs on a team that has many veterans.
One thing that can hurt a big club is draws. Rival AC Milan received one against Lecce this past weekend. Inter nearly drew with Cesena before winning 3-2. It cannot afford to lose any points, especially to the weaker sides in the league.
We all know that not every player can play every minute of every game. Then again, go tell that to Javier Zanetti. But now that the injury bug appears to be for the most part behind them, Leonardo should not make any major changes. But he should at times rest certain players like Esteban Cambiasso, who seems to run like he is a marathon every game. Thiago Motta has be superb since returning from injury. Dejan Stankovic is also in good form and of course Zanetti can also play in the center of the midfield when he isn't backing up Christian Chivu at left back or Douglas Maicon at right back.
The season is long and having players fresh is important for the toughest games.
Fortunately Inter does not appear to have anyone or anything right now that might perhaps cause a distraction within the club. Sulley Muntari wants to leave the club, but he is for the most part nothing more than a third-string player.
If the group acts as it did last season, it should be fine or even better off. Leonardo speaks many languages fluently like Jose Mourinho, but he generally does not make comments that raise eyebrows.
Ultimately, winning a championship requires winning big games. Inter will need to earn three points against title contenders AS Roma and Juventus in early February. Should they fail to do so, their encounter with AC Milan of April 3 may not matter.