Roberto Mancini will have awoken a happier man on Monday morning.
His Inter Milan side have extended their unbeaten streak to four games, and are within six points of the third Champions League slot. His second era is beginning to take shape.
It came against high-flying Genoa, with the San Siro witnessing the Italian register a first home victory since returning to the club. The question is: can they really see off the likes of Napoli, AC Milan and Lazio to succeed in their European mission in what could be Rafael Benitez’s final season in charge.
The win comes at the end of a significant week at the club, where movements in the transfer market have the fans believing a second half of the season surge will propel them back to the big time after an absence of three years.
Lukas Podolski ended his miserable stint in North London with Arsenal to join on loan until the rest of the season, with the German aiming a parting shot at manager Arsene Wenger along the way. His bridges at the Emirates Stadium now appear burnt and damaged beyond repair.
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Then came a significant coup in the form of Xherdan Shaqiri. After being increasingly marginalised by Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich, Mancini adopted a humane approach to win the race for the Swiss superstar’s signature. Liverpool and Stoke City had been linked with the 23-year-old prior to his move to Serie A.
Sunday’s performance was impressive and emphatic, and hinted at a new corner about to be turned. Rodrigo Palacio, Mauro Icardi and Nemanja Vidic scored to register a 3-1 victory and move them up to ninth in the table.
Further arrivals could help Mancini overcome the side’s terrible start to the season under the stewardship of Walter Mazzarri and help the club towards a place in Europe’s top-tier competition.
Juventus look set to hold on to their Scudetto for a fourth consecutive year, having seen off Benitez’s Napoli at the Stadio San Paolo in a game that served to demonstrate the importance of Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal. Massimiliano Allegri is building on the foundations of his predecessor Antonio Conte, and could be in line for a successful time in Turin.
Roma are set for second but were pegged back by high-flying Lazio in the Rome derby at the weekend. Garcia has last year’s runners-up firmly in the title race once again, whilst Lazio are aiming for an unlikely place in the Champions League.
AC Milan strengthened by signing Alessio Cerci from Atletico Madrid, but still lack a striker capable of firing them back to the big time. Fernando Torres’ disastrous move from Chelsea was a huge failure, and the chances of signing Mattia Destro from Roma appear slim.
Inter have a huge challenge on their hands. But Mancini is beginning to work his magic that may lead to an unlikely surge that sees his first season back at the club be a successful one after all.
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