Inter get back to their tight Serie A title chase with Juventus when they travel to Fiorentina, while racism has once again reared its ugly head.
Fresh from winning the Italian Super Cup in Riyadh on Monday, Inter trail league leaders Juve by a single point after their closest rivals took advantage of Simone Inzaghi’s team’s league absence last weekend.
Inter are playing catch-up for the first time since late October when they reclaimed top spot from AC Milan, and they could go into today’s clash four points off the pace.
Juve, who are alone at the top of Serie A for the first time since August 2020, host struggling Empoli on a run of seven straight wins in all competitions and new inspiration in front of goal.
“There are other strong teams who want to win the league as much as we do. It’s going to be a battle right to the end with Juve and Milan,” said Inzaghi.
Massimiliano Allegri’s traditionally stodgy Juve side have scored 18 times in their five matches since the turn of the year, with Dusan Vlahovic netting five as he rediscovers his scoring touch.
Today’s fixture is the last in a run of accommodating games against the division’s lesser lights for Juve. They will then come to Milan to take on Inter in a match which could define the title race.
Juve don’t have European football this season, so have more time to prepare for games.
Meanwhile Inter – who played Lazio and Napoli in Saudi Arabia – have to travel to Roma before their Champions League campaign resumes with the visit of Atletico Madrid.
Inter travel to Florence with key midfielders Nicolo Barella and Hakan Calhanoglu suspended, making an already tricky trip even tougher.
Fiorentina are fourth and aiming to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 2009. They should have star forward Nicolas Gonzalez back from injury.
Before Inter kick-off in Tuscany, reigning champions Napoli take on Lazio in Rome, where the hosts will be playing with much of the Stadio Olimpico closed after racist chanting from their notorious fans.
The main area where Lazio’s hardcore supporters stand will be shut after mass monkey chanting at Roma striker Romelu Lukaku.
It’s another reminder of the racism which continues to blight matches in Italy, where far-right fan groups such as those at Lazio are commonplace.
On Wednesday, Udinese said they would appeal being ordered to play one match behind closed doors as punishment after a small number of their supporters racially abusing AC Milan and France goalkeeper Mike Maignan.
On Wednesday, former Milan midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng, who in 2013 famously walked off the field after being racially abused during a friendly, called that sanction “a joke” and called for teams to forfeit matches for supporter racism.
“No-one cares about an empty stadium,” said Boateng in an interview with Gazzetta Dello Sport.
“If their team loses however, they’re hit where it hurts… If the sanctions aren’t harsh, nothing will change.”
Player to watch: Mike Maignan
Mike Maignan is set for a warm welcome at the San Siro after the ugly scenes of last weekend, and he will need to be on top form as third-placed Milan host surprising Bologna, who are trying to pull themselves out of a mini-slump.
Bologna, winless in three and two points behind Fiorentina, have already beaten Inter away this season and will have star forward Joshua Zirkzee back from suspension as Thiago Motta’s side try to reignite their bid for the top four.
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