Wobbly Inter aim to find form
AC Milan may have missed the chance to go top at the weekend after they were held to a 1-1 home draw by Napoli but Inter Milan's recent form has left the Serie A title race wide open.
With nine games left Inter lead their city rivals by one point with Roma a further three back. And with Roma to host Inter on Saturday, there is a very real feeling that the scudetto race is alive and kicking.
Champions and leaders Inter's immediate priority is to get back to winning ways in Serie A. They may be through to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals having beaten Chelsea home and away but their league form is a disaster.
One win in seven and a mere eight points gleaned from a possible 21 explains exactly why Inter are now looking nervously over their shoulders. It is not so long ago that they held eight and nine-point leads at the top of the table and seemed dead certainties for a fifth straight Serie A crown.
But Inter simply can't win in Serie A at the moment. They complained of tiredness after being pegged back to a 1-1 draw at Palermo on Saturday but that was not what cost them away to Catania the previous week when they let slip a 1-0 lead to lose 3-1 courtesy of three goals in the final 16 minutes.
It will perhaps then come as a relief for Inter to see that their visitors to the San Siro on Wednesday will be the league's bottom club Livorno, who have not won in 10 games. In fact Livorno have lost seven of those last 10 but ominously their three points have come in draws against their three most prestigious opponents - Milan, Juventus and Roma.
Livorno are the epitome of inconsistency this season and before those last 10 games they appeared to be heading to safety. But despite having taken four points off Roma and held Milan to two draws, their continued poor form against the rest of the division has hurt them. Even so Inter need be wary, particularly as Dutch playmaker Wesley Sneijder looks likely to miss out with a thigh strain while Dejan Stankovic is suspended and young Italian striker Mario Balotelli is being frozen out due to a public row in training a week ago.
Inter need to get back to winning ways, though, as Milan and Roma are exerting serious pressure. Both face tricky away ties in midweek but certainly winnable ones as Roma travel to Bologna while Parma entertain Milan. Inter's two rivals have cause for optimism as it is the champions who appear to have the toughest title run in with trips to Roma, Fiorentina and Lazio to come as well as a home match against Juventus.
Juve continue to lurch from one crisis to another and face a must-win clash away to Napoli on Thursday. The Turin giants sit sixth in the league and in real danger of missing out on Champions League qualification.
What's more they face away trips to Inter and Milan towards the end of the season. Their defeat at Sampdoria on Sunday night was their 10th of this campaign and came at a cost as third choice goalkeeper Antonio Chimenti broke his hand after the game after punching a table in anger having been at fault for Samp's winning goal.
The blow is only softened by the return from injury of second-choice stopper Alex Manninger while number one Gianluigi Buffon is still sidelined. But Juve are in a group of six teams chasing fourth spot, including Napoli, and the only reason Alberto Zaccheroni's men are still in the hunt is that none of those teams is managing to string more than a couple of wins together.