Serie A: Icardi debacle weighs heavy on Inter before crunch Milan derby

The 26-year-old has complained of a knee injury but the club says a scan has not revealed any new injury.

Mauro Icardi has scored 15 goals for the club this season.   -  Getty Images

Mauro Icardi's ongoing contract dispute with Inter Milan shows no sign of abating as the Italian team crashed out of the Europa League in his absence on Thursday before this weekend's key derby showdown against city rival AC Milan at the San Siro.

Both sides are battling for Champions League football next season with Gennaro Gattuso's Milan in third, one point ahead of Inter, which occupies the final elite European qualifying spot.

Icardi's dramatic injury-time winner snatched a 1-0 win for Inter in the reverse fixture last October.

But the Argentine joint-top-scorer in Serie A last season with 29 goals — has not played since February 9 amid a contract dispute which resulted in him being stripped of the captain's armband.

The 26-year-old, who has scored 15 goals for the club this season, has complained of a knee injury but the club says a scan has not revealed any new injury.

In his absence Inter has won two of four league games, and crashed out of the Europa League on Thursday 1-0 on aggregate to visitor Eintracht Frankfurt.

Champions League qualification is now Inter's only objective, as it is 25 points behind leader Juventus.

“We came up short in all areas,” said coach Luciano Spalletti. “We certainly need to do better than we did tonight (against Milan),” he added.

“We need more confidence. We'll look back over this match and recognise we didn't read it the right way.”

It faces a tough battle against in-form AC Milan, inspired by new Polish striker Krzysztof Piatek, which has won five league games on the trot.

Piatek has scored eight goals in nine games since joining Milan from Genoa last January as Gattuso's side is on track for the Champions League for the first time since 2014.

— Ronaldo back on domestic duty —

Title-holder Juventus returns to domestic duty against Genoa, looking to build on its 18-point advantage on top of the table, days after Cristiano Ronaldo's hat-trick rescued its Champions League campaign.

Firmly on track for an eighth consecutive Scudetto, Juventus is distantly followed by Napoli, which hosts Udinese, days after falling 3-1 to Salzburg in the Europa League.

Carlo Ancelotti's southerners still qualified for the quarterfinals of the second-tier European tournament which is its only hope of a trophy this season, 4-3 on aggregate.

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“In Serie A we certainly are not in a comfortable position,” conceded Ancelotti, who are six points ahead of AC Milan.

“We had a setback against Sassuolo (1-1 last weekend) and need to be vigilant, as if we can't have first place, we should at least hold on to second.”

Claudio Ranieri's Roma can profit from the Milan sides neutralising each other as they target the Champions League.

Ranieri got off to a winning start with a 2-1 win over Empoli after taking over after Eusebio Di Francesco was sacked following its Champions League flop. Roma is fifth, three points adrift of Inter.

A win over SPAL two points above the relegation zone would keep the Romans in the chase for elite European football next season.

“When I joined the team was coming off the back of two consecutive defeats, with lots of players out,” said the 67-year-old Ranieri, adding, “My message to them is 'play without fear'.”

Europa League hopeful Atalanta hosts bottom club Chievo with Lazio at home against Parma and Sampdoria away at Sassuolo before the international break.

New Empoli coach Aurelio Andreazzoli's first game back four months after being sacked will at home against relegation rival Frosinone.

Fixtures

Friday: Cagliari vs Fiorentina

Saturday: Sassuolo vs Sampdoria, SPAL vs AS Roma, Torino vs Bologna

Sunday: Genoa vs Juventus, Atalanta vs Chievo, Empoli vs Frosinone, Lazio vs Parma, Napoli vs Udinese, AC Milan vs Inter Milan

 

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