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3-0.

A bitter pill to swallow, but as many of the Inter senior players stated after the derby loss to AC Milan, the Nerazzurri simply have to “get on with it.”

It was perceived to be the most significant derby match since the ill-fated Champions League matches nearly a decade ago.  The five time Scudetto winning Inter seemingly did not show up.  Looking back on the match, there have been a number of talking points that have been brought up.  Did Thiago Motta’s header cross the line?  Were Pato’s goals offside?  Were the expulsions of both Cristian Chivu and Antonio Cassano justified?

None of that matters now, as it is water under the bridge and there is nothing that can be done about the result.  The fact of the matter is Inter are now five points behind the league leaders and in third place behind Napoli.  With seven matches remaining in the campionato, the molehill has turned into a mountain and is looking insurmountable for the defending champions.

So where does this leave the Nerazzurri?

Inter’s league position may not be favourable, but the message has resonated through the World champions’ camp:  Non mollare mai.  Every Inter player who has spoken to the media after Saturday has shared the same sentiment that Inter will not give up, even though the hunt for six straight titles may look bleak at this moment.

This outlook differs greatly from earlier this season, when Inter struggled in the league at the hands of Rafa Benitez.  After Benitez’s brief tenure, Inter sat in a miserable seventh place while Milan looked to be light years ahead.  At this point of the season, many believed that Inter’s challenge for the Scudetto was out of reach.

Fast forward to the present.  Under a new coach in Leonardo, Inter currently sit in third place, leaps and bounds beyond Benitez’s contributions.  Leonardo inherited a -13 point deficit from Benitez and has trimmed that down to -5 points (the smallest deficit being -2 points).  To put things in perspective, it is a reminder that regardless of the devastation Interisti may feel regarding the derby loss, much improvement has been made.  This incredible run of form from the reigning Campione del Mondo have given everyone in the league (especially Milanisti) something to fear.

The race for the championship is far from over, even if a loss to Inter’s cross town rivals have taken the wind out of their sails for one night.  The top three (Milan, Napoli, and Inter, respectively) have a tough road ahead until the league can be mathematically settled.  Inter must look forward and put the loss behind them.

With that being said, it is time to look at the road ahead.  Inter do not have the “luxury” of merely focusing on the domestic front.  Being the only Italian club left in any European competition, the reigning European Champions cannot dwell on the derby loss.  A ten minute meeting was called at Appiano Gentile on Sunday between Leo and the first team squad to talk about the previous night and in it was a call to arms by none other than co-captain Marco Materazzi.  His message was short and simple, urging his team to never give up.  The best way to bounce back after such a defeat is to win.

The focus has now shifted to Schalke 04 and the desire to try to become the first back to back Champions League winners (in current day formatting) is driving the squad.  More specifically for this quarterfinal match-up against the German side, is a thirst to avenge the 1997 UEFA Cup loss.  Captain Javier Zanetti still remembers that fateful day nearly 14 years ago and has not been able to get rid of that bitter taste left behind by that defeat.  Revenge is on his mind as well as every Interisti and this is the perfect match to  win, demonstrating the Nerazzurri’s strength, solidarity and courage.

A silver lining can be taken from Saturday’s loss, and that is the return of Diego Milito.  After coming in as a second half substitute, the deadly striker is a sight for sore Nerazzurri eyes.  After nearly two months sidelined with injury, Il Principe’s presence has been greatly missed and he will be vital in the final six weeks of the season.

At this stage of the season and three titles to defend, the most important thing is to take every game one match at a time and to view each match as a cup final, laying it all on the line.

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