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Bologna’s surprise Champions League bid tested by rampaging Inter

Bologna’s dream bid for Champions League football comes up against its biggest challenge yet on Saturday when Serie A’s champions-elect Inter Milan come to town.

A run of six straight wins has built a four-point buffer between Bologna and Roma, the closest pretenders to their fourth spot in Italy’s top flight.

But on Saturday Thiago Motta’s surprise package take on the only team in the league in hotter form as Inter have won all 12 matches they have played in 2024.

Bologna are founder members of Italy’s national championship and seven-time league winners, but their most recent Scudetto came in 1964, when they also played their one and only tie in the old European Cup.

They fell to Anderlecht on a coin toss following a 2-2 aggregate draw and since then their only deep run in a European competition came when they were beaten by Marseille in the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup 25 years ago.

Bologna qualified for that year’s tournament thanks their last trophy, the 1998 Intertoto Cup, and since then it has been slim pickings for the northern Italian outfit.

Last year’s ninth place was the highest Bologna had finished in Serie A for over a decade as other mid-ranking clubs like Udinese, Atalanta and Sampdoria had their days in the sun.

But Bologna are on course to claim their highest finish since finishing third in 1967 as they welcome Inter, who defend a whopping 15-point lead over Juventus ahead of their Champions League last 16 decider at Atletico Madrid.

As reward Motta will be handed the Serie A coach of the month trophy before the match, a sign of just how good his team were in February with Inter on the rampage.

Inter should welcome back starters Alessandro Bastoni, Francesco Acerbi and above all Marcus Thuram for Sunday’s clash against the only team to beat Simone Inzaghi’s side in any competition since the end of September. 

Juve could do Bologna a favour on Sunday as they host Atalanta, who are five points off the top four in sixth after losing at home to Motta’s men last weekend.

Player to watch: Marcus Thuram

France attacker Thuram has been a revelation for Inter after signing as a free agent in the summer, netting 12 times in all competitions and setting up seven more.

His partnership with Serie A’s leading scorer Lautaro Martinez has been one of the key factors in Inter’s sensational season and his return to action will be hugely important for Inzaghi ahead of Atletico on Wednesday.

Thuram is almost certain to play a part at Bologna after being picking up a hamstring injury in Inter’s 1-0, first-leg win over Atletico at the San Siro last month.

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