I, for one, am shocked. I picked Inter to win this tie since they were coming off the heels of a gritty performance against Munich and a hot streak that saw them climb to second in the Serie A. Then...it all fell apart. What happened? Inter Coach Leonardo blames fatigue...Good one! How about bad tactics? Bad defense? Bad form? Bad everything. Raul's left foot alone could have defeated Inter in this tie. Reasons behind the collapse:
|Milito and Eto'o wonder what could have been - in horrible kits|
It was clear after the Derby della Madonnina that Leonardo was a bit naive. It was made even clearer after two legs with Schalke. Both Massimiliano Allegri and Schalke Coach Ralf Rangnick figured out the key to defeating Leonardo's Inter: asphyxiating the midfield and running with pace at a weak defense.
Inter's dominating midfield turned hard work into goals last season under Jose Mourinho, often working their way up the field and inevitably allowing Wesley Sneijder to pull the final strings. This year, Sneijder has been in a more advanced role. This has urged opposing teams to isolate Sneijder, effectively cutting off Inter's attack. Rather than controlling the ball in the midfield, the Dutchman has relied on his teammates to give him the ball farther up the field, which has not happened of late and created a mess of Inter's attacking fluidity.
As a result of losing the battle in the middle of the park, Inter has not controlled play with their usual dominance. With control going to the opposer, the treble winners have allowed teams to run at their weak defense.
Andrea Ranocchia is young, talented, but not quite there yet. Christian Chivu is horrible. He's slow, dirty, gets sent off far too much, and wears a dumb hat. Lucio is not on form at the moment, since he has been injured and missed time in recent weeks. Maicon, as we all know, is a far better going forward than he is defending. Javier Zanetti is wonderful, but caught between the role of a midfielder and defender. He often tries to aid the congested midfield and moreover command his wing, since the team has not had a midfielder present along the lines for quite some time.
I can't fault Leonardo on this one. The defense has been a mess because of lingering injuries to Lucio and the loss of Walter Samuel - who is set to return and take part in the year-end failure. This has led to a back four that changes on a weekly basis and has not bonded as a defensive unit. Plus Chivu is just horrible!
At the time I was reluctant to admit it (since I was set on believing Inter would go through to the UCL Semis), but the loss to Milan was devastating for the players. It was demoralizing and exhausting. The team fielded their best squad three days before the crucial clash with Schalke because they had to - because it was the Milan derby. The game was brutal and the aftermath shocking. After a blip of good form which was sparked by the hiring of Leonardo, Inter were brought right back down to earth by their bitter rivals.
Look at this guy! Ageless! Raul has spurred Schalke on, netting five goals in Champions League play and having a hand in countless others. Hell, I even saw him tracking back on defense when Schalke was winning the first leg 4-1. Raul is synonymous with class. I am officially routing for this underdog story of a player and team for the rest of the tournament.
|Raul celebrating with the faithful|
From treble winner to trophy-less - that's my prediction, anyhow.