MILAN (AP) — Inter Milan’s dependence on Romelu Lukaku could be making the Nerazzurri a bit too predictable.
Touted as title challengers at the start of the season, it has been a week to forget for Inter.
It lost the derby to fierce rival AC Milan on Saturday and then needed a last-minute equalizer from Lukaku to scrape a 2-2 draw against Borussia Mönchengladbach in their Champions League opener on Wednesday.
Lukaku scored both goals to take his tally to six in five matches this season. He has netted almost half of Inter’s 14 goals.
And other teams are realizing that stopping Lukaku means stopping Inter.
“Ninety-nine percent of Inter’s game plan was trying to give the ball to Lukaku, who brings it down and allows the team to get up the pitch,” Gladbach midfielder Jonas Hofmann said. “For us it was difficult to always put two men on him, one in front and one behind, but I think that at the end the work we did was great.”
Moreover, Inter is struggling at the back. Aleksandar Kolarov has failed to settle in since joining from Roma in the offseason and has been at fault for several goals Inter has conceded.
Fellow new signing Arturo Vidal was to blame for both goals Inter allowed in on Wednesday, however, as the midfielder needlessly gave away a penalty and then played Hofmann onside for Glabach’s second.
Inter coach Antonio Conte defended his players and insisted other factors had played their part, notably that the squad had been hard hit by the coronavirus.
Full back Achraf Hakimi tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday. Teammates Ashley Young, Milan Škriniar, Roberto Gagliardini and Ionut Radu were also out with the virus and Alessandro Bastoni and Radja Nainggolan had only just recovered.
“Receiving the news about Hakimi testing positive for COVID-19 certainly wasn’t easy,” Conte said. “We’d prepared for certain situations and Achraf was set to start.
“It wasn’t easy, including from a psychological point of view, but the lads approached the match with the right spirit and showed they are good men.”
Inter needs to bounce back on Saturday against Genoa, a team that was even worse hit by the coronavirus.
More than 20 Genoa players and staff tested positive for COVID-19 and their match at Torino on Oct. 3 had to be postponed. Most of them have returned and the team managed a 0-0 draw at Hellas Verona on Monday.
“We have to try and get back as many as possible,” Genoa sporting director Daniele Faggiano said. “But not just by testing negative. Also on a physical level, because staying at home for 15 days makes you lose your physical strength.”
Inter has slipped to sixth in Serie A after drawing at Lazio before the derby defeat. It will nevertheless be expected to beat Genoa and also pick up points in its next league match against Parma.
Games against Atalanta and Real Madrid in the next month will certainly prove tougher.
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