Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

The 2010 -11 Serie A season has come to an end and it is the time of the year when players pack up their bags and jet off to tropical paradises the world over.  Well, not quite.  The majority of teams are in the process of cleaning out their lockers but for Inter, there is one last hurdle to jump in the hunt for silverware.

There is an important match this weekend, and no, it is not happening in London.  The Coppa Italia final is this Sunday and Inter are preparing to face Palermo.

The final round of the league season was deemed important for the Nerazzurri, as it provided Inter manager Leonardo the opportunity to play around with potential lineups and formations for this upcoming weekend.  It was also a chance for Leo to extend his home winning streak to 12 games and keep a 100% home record in domestic play.  Inter hosted the other Sicilian club Catania, as well as ex-Inter player and current Catania manager, Diego Simeone.

Dejan Stankovic was welcomed back into the fold after being sidelined for a few weeks with an injury.  Unfortunately, Esteban Cambiasso pulled up with a muscle injury on Saturday during training which forced him out of Sunday’s match, as well as the upcoming final.  Julio Cesar and Wesley Sneijder were also left out of the squad, as both needed more time to rest, recuperate, and recover.  Maicon was also not called up as he is suspended in the Coppa Italia and Leo thought it best to play around with the right back position, with Yuto Nagatomo filling in at right back for the Brazilian.  (On a non-football related note, congratulations and parabens to Maicon, who is expecting a baby girl!)

With nothing left to play for except pride, it was easy to guess the Giuseppe Meazza would see a few goals before the afternoon ended.  Inter started with Luca Castellazzi in goal, with Nagatomo, Lucio and Andrea Ranocchia in the centre with Cristian Chivu on the left.  Captain Javier Zanetti, Thiago Motta, Dejan Stankovic, and Houssine Kharja rounded out the midfield, while Samuel Eto’o and Giampaolo Pazzini were up top.

‘Il Pazzo’ started the scoring in the 15th minute and it came from a somewhat fortunate bounce of the ball.  As the Catania defense attempted to kick the ball out, it deflected off Kharja into the path of Pazzini who calmly finished past the Catania keeper.  Inter dominated the game, but the rest of the goals came in the second half and Diego Milito came in at halftime to replace Eto’o, with an almost immediate impact.

In the 48th minute, he delivered a perfect, pinpoint cross from the right side onto the foot of Pazzini, giving Milito another assist and Pazzo another goal.  2-0 up and Inter’s foot slowly came off the pedal, but not before a screamer of a goal from Nagatomo put the Nerazzurri 3-0 up.  Naga’s goal was reminiscent of his idol Maicon, as he shot the ball from outside the box into the upper left hand corner of the net.  At 3-0, the game was realistically over for Catania but they happened to pull one back to make it 3-1 shortly after Nagatomo’s goal, but they could surmise nothing else.

As this was the final match of the season to be played at the Meazza, the traditional pageantry and fanfare took place.  The team applauded the fans and vice versa but the biggest reception was reserved in the second half when Walter Samuel took to the pitch for the first time since his injury.  Like the previous match against Napoli, Ranocchia was substituted for ‘il Muro’ and, as Samuel entered, the entire stadium rose to its feet.  Contrary to the whispers and as great as it would be to see it happen, ‘The Wall’ is unlikely to start the match against Palermo.

Julio Cesar is expected to make his return in between the posts while everyone is holding their breath that Sneijder will make it.  The medical staff decided to not rush him back before the end of the season, as the goal is to have him as close to fully fit as possible for the final.

The Coppa Italia was a competition that other teams did not take seriously, but a trophy is a trophy and Inter never lost sight of that fact.  After the tumultuous year the Nerazzurri have had, the chance to play for yet another piece of silverware and to end the season on a high means everything to the Inter family.

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