x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Inter must remain focused

Two points ahead of Roma, Inter will guarantee their fifth successive league title with a win against a team who are already relegated.

Jose Mourinho, the Inter Milan alchemist, has touted himself as a future Real Madrid coach.
Jose Mourinho, the Inter Milan alchemist, has touted himself as a future Real Madrid coach.

Inter Milan go to Siena this afternoon in danger only of mistaking their final assignment of the Serie A season for an audition for greater tasks. Two points ahead of Roma, Inter will guarantee their fifth successive league title with a win against a team who are already relegated.

Form is with them, given that Inter have won their last five domestic matches and on the horizon is the prospect of a treble. With the Coppa Italia already seized and a Champions League final to come next Saturday, Inter are on the verge of making history, provided they stay undistracted for 90 minutes. Plenty of distractions are on offer. Jose Mourinho, the Inter coach, typically, is the source of most of them. In an interview with Panorama, the Italian magazine, published two days ago, Mourinho says: "One day I will coach Real Madrid." That day is widely believed to be sometime in July. Some busy lobbying has been set in motion for the best part of two months by Mourinho's entourage to hoist his name high on the agenda of the Spanish club, at whose home Inter will contest the Champions League final against Bayern Munich.

If today is to be Mourinho's farewell to Italian football, emotions will be mixed. His relationship with the game has been combative since he arrived in the summer of 2008 and began to define Inter as an us-against-the-world club who detect antipathy and conspiracy against them at every corner. The fact that Inter go into the last day of the Serie A season with the league title still unsecured is taken by Mourinho's critics - and there are many - as evidence that he has not significantly improved a club who finished top of the Italian league twice under his predecessor, Roberto Mancini. The delay over their likely consecration as champions is in Mourinho's eyes due to unjust refereeing decisions, particularly in between late January and mid-March, when Inter struggled to win games and Roma's surge up the table gathered its momentum.

Mourinho's chief supporters are his players. Samuel Eto'o, the striker he brought to the club last summer from Barcelona, told reporters ahead of this afternoon's fixtures that while Mourinho may appear a hub of distractions and vanities, his persona with his team was quite different. "If you don't really know him, he can seem a bit crazy," said Eto'o, "but he knows what he wants and he will not let anything stop him getting there. He's a good man, and everybody knows he is a great coach."

Eto'o, who is chasing a second successive treble - he won the Copa del Rey, the Primera Liga and the Champions League with Barcelona last season - admits he is a convert. "It's to be expected that people are against Mourinho. When I played for Barcelona against his Chelsea, I went to London for the match wanting to kill him. But when you have him on your side, it's another story," said the Cameroon international.

Eto'o also defended his coach against the perception that his strategic instincts are conservative and negative. "How come Inter score four goals in a match so often? You cannot call a side that lines up with five attackers defensive," he added. The four goals Inter put past Chievo - who scored three - last weekend to maintain their lead in Serie A should indeed boost morale for this afternoon. Mourinho is confident Lucio, the defender and Wesley Sneijder, his most creative player, have recovered from injuries sufficiently to be used today if necessary. If not, they will be on the bench keeping one ear on how Roma are faring away at Chievo.

sports@thenational.ae Siena v Inter, Aljazeera Sport + 3, Chievo v Roma, Aljazeera Sport + 7, both 5pm