Milan: It is early days in Inter Milan’s pursuit of perennial Serie A pacesetters Juventus, but already the chasers are worrying about flagging.
Inter travel to Bologna on Saturday in the 11th round and can briefly overhaul Juventus ahead of the Turin derby later in the day.
Third-placed Atalanta face in-form Cagliari on Sunday. Roma, in fourth, open the weekend against Napoli.
The top two flip-flopped in midweek. Inter won 2-1 at Brescia on Tuesday. Juventus, playing with 10 men, regained a one-point lead when Cristiano Ronaldo converted a 90th-minute penalty at home to Genoa on Wednesday.
After the victory at Brescia, Inter manager Antonio Conte, always a glass-half-empty type, complained that his squad is being asked to do too much.
“It becomes difficult to talk about the game because we’ve now played our fourth match in nine days with the same players,” he said.
“We now have to recover because we’re only halfway there, I haven’t seen any other side having to play seven matches in 20 days. Next up it’s Bologna on Saturday and then we’ve got a Tuesday fixture away to Dortmund.”
Conte reportedly had meetings with Inter management this week to discuss adding one or two midfielders in the winter transfer period.
“We are pushing the engine to the max,” he said.
Most of his players had got the message.
“We’re playing every three days and it isn’t easy. There is slight fatigue,” said Argentine striker Lautaro Martinez, who scored Inter’s opening goal in Tuesday, his fifth of the season.
There was one dissenting voice.
“It’s nice to play every few days,” said Dutch defender Matthijs de Ligt. “We footballers live to play games. It’s tiring but we’re happy.”
Bologna are anchored in mid-table after losing 3-2 away to Cagliari on Wednesday but defender Stefano Denswil promised Inter a tough match.
“We want to play a great game against Inter in front of our fans,” the Dutchman said.
Meanwhile Juventus’ weekend opponents are in some disarray. Walter Mazzarri, the Torino manager, received the dreaded vote of confidence ahead of the Turin derby.
Torino lost 4-0 at Lazio on Wednesday, although all the goals came after defender Nicolas Nkoulou received a second yellow card after 21 minutes.
Torino president Urbano Cairo was not happy.
“We have a derby ahead of us but above all a long championship ahead of us: I think it’s right today to examine everyone’s conscience.”
He added that he had confidence in Mazzarri.
“I confirm my faith in Mazzarri,” said Cairo. “He’s not under examination.”
The last thing the former Napoli, Inter and Watford manager needs is Torino’s habitual defeat in the Derby della Mole.
Torino have only beaten Juventus once in 28 league meetings since 1995. In that time, Juve, despite being briefly relegated, have won 12 Scudetti and a European title. Torino have won a second division title.
Roma v Napoli, 6pm
Bologna v Inter Milan, 9pm
Torino v Juventus, 11.45pm
Atalanta v Cagliari, 3.30pm
Genoa v Udinese, 6pm
Hellas Verona v Brescia, 6pm
Lecce v Sassuolo, 6pm
Fiorentina v Parma, 9pm
Milan v Lazio, 11.45pm
SPAL v Sampdoria, 11.45pm