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The Defending Champions Found Their Way And Milan Feels The Pressure

Since Leonardo took over as the new coach, Inter has won 21 points out of the 24 in dispute, reducing the 13 point difference with Milan to five in just eight match days.

The champion is back. After a tough early season where the team was unable to find its way and results were deceiving, a change of coach has been the solution for their problems. Former Milan coach, Brazilian Leonardo Nascimento de Araujo, has brought the formula that has put Inter back on track to defend their title, and the future looks brighter for the Nerazzuri in 2011.

After a short passage through Inter former Liverpool coach, Spaniard Rafael Benitez, was dismissed after publically asking for reinforcements and threatening to leave if he didn’t get was he was asking for. His demands were not well taken by the club’s owner, Italian Massimo Moratti, who found no remorse in firing the Spaniard, as he couldn’t understand how a team that had just won an epic treble -Coppa Italia, Serie A and UEFA Champions League- could be having such a poor performance and attributing the bad results to lack of new signings.

Despite only being in charge for six months, Benitez didn’t leave with empty hands, as Inter won the 2010 FIFA Club World Cup under his orders. But that wasn’t enough to eclipse the bad performance in the Serie A, where the team was in the sixth position, 13 points under the leader and city rival Milan.

Under those circumstances Leonardo took charge of the team, and his orders had an immediate effect in a roster that quickly understood that they needed a change of attitude for results to follow. That change took place and Inter began to see the fruits of their work reflected in the standings. After just eight match days under the command of the team, Leonardo made them perform at the highest level, winning 21 points out of the 24 in dispute, or if you like to see it another way: he won seven games and only lost one.

His presence had repercussions in the leader Milan, team that has seen how the 13 point advantage that they had in 2010 has been reduced to five since the arrival of their former head coach and player to Inter. The pressure has been such that Milan was unable to win in their last two confrontations, tying against Lazio at home and versus Genoa on the road.

Inter is now third with 44 points and one game less than Milan that has 49 points after 24 games. If the defending champions are able to win that pending game for match day 22 against Fiorentina on February 16, they will reduce the distance with their city rivals to only two points.

Both of these teams qualified to the 2010/11 UEFA Champions League round of 16, something that could influence in their performances during the upcoming weeks. Milan will be playing against Tottenham Hotspur from England at home on February 15, while Inter will be playing the following week -February 23- against Bayern Munich from Germany at home as well.