Inter Milan average across the board in defeat to Juventus
Champions League football; that was the goal. The fact that Inter Milan were still chasing the Scudetto before Christmas was more eyebrow raising than a Carlo Ancelotti special. Even so, since New Year's Day, the Nerazzurri have been in free fall, and outside of excellent games against Chievo and Napoli in Serie A and the Coppa Italia, their form has been poor. On Sunday in the Derby D'Italia, they had one last chance to grab third place by the throat, but a 2-0 defeat to Juventus leaves in doubt a return to Europe's heralded competition.
The second half had hardly started before all of Inter's hard work in the first half was undone by a poor Danilo D'Ambrosio clearance that allowed Leonardo Bonucci in to provide Juventus with a goal out of nothing. As the game went on it looked like Juventus would pile on the pressure, but the Nerazzurri defended well.
Still, Inter lacked creativity. Adem Ljajic's arrival into the match in the 56th minute should have provided more spark, but the Serbian, like the rest of the squad, struggled to gain a foothold in the match. The problem is still the same for Inter: They have a disconnection between their attack and defence, due to their midfield. The late penalty conceded and converted leaves the Milanese questioning whether they can make it into Europe's biggest competition.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Samir Handanovic, 7 -- The Slovenian saved from ex-Inter player Hernanes, as he majestically managed to get his fingertips to the Brazilian's 25-yard effort. A good game overall, he had little chance on the goal.
DF Juan Jesus, 6 -- The Brazilian was solid and always looks like he is more comfortable in a 3-5-2. His first half was excellent with the caveat that he offered little offensively.
DF Jeison Murillo, 6 -- Accused of being inconsistent in recent weeks, he did little to ease fears early on and his positioning was always a yard short of his man. The more he seems to acknowledge his poor form, the more his decision making suffers.
DF Joao Miranda, 6 -- Inter's other center-back started as he always does: confident and assured. He had to overcompensate for Murillo early on but he did that well, helping the Colombian settle in. Solid game overall. Gave away a dubious penalty at the end, should have perhaps known better.
DF Danilo D'Ambrosio, 6 -- The full-back pressed hard up the field from the first minute and defended expertly in his own area. Juventus started strongly but he wasn't found wanting. The second half started very differently as his poor clearance allowed Leonardo Bonucci in for the opener.
DF Alex Telles, 7 -- The Brazilian was perhaps Inter's best player in the early stages, he was super going forward but equally was exceptional in tracking back. Came off for Ivan Perisic for tactical reasons late on.
MF Felipe Melo, 6 -- The enigma that is Melo was steady in the first half and won a lot of balls in the air that helped the Nerazzurri break down many of the Old Lady's attacks. He offered little going forward, raising questions as to why he is played in the same squad as Gary Medel.
MF Gary Medel, 6 -- The Chilean struggled to cope early on and was not offering himself as an outlet for the defence. This meant Kondogbia came deep and in turn left the forwards isolated. Just as he was growing into the game, he came off injured and was replaced by Ljajic.
MF Geoffrey Kondogbia, 6 -- The Frenchman started well but found himself coming too deep to get the ball. He finally realized that he needed to be the more offensive of the three midfielders, but when he retreated into his shell, Inter were effectively playing with eight defenders.
FW Rodrigo Palacio, 6 -- The veteran forward had improved in recent weeks but his stamina lets him down. A man who built a career on impeccable dedication and work rate is perhaps past his best, but he showed his class with an incredible ball to Icardi on 30 minutes that his countryman failed to control. Quiet in the second half as he tired.
FW Mauro Icardi, 6 -- The rule by which Icardi has lived this season is "give me the ball and I will score." This was not so in the first half when he fluffed a chance halfway through. Subbed for Eder late on and will be disappointed with his overall contribution.
MF Adem Ljajic, 6 -- Came on for Medel on 55 minutes, perhaps tried too hard to win the game on his own rather than being that important link to Icardi.
MF Ivan Perisic, NR -- Replaced Telles on 72 minutes as part of a tactical switch from the 3-5-2.
MF Eder, NR -- Replaced Icardi too late to influence the game.
Richard Hall is an Italian football writer contributing to ESPN, The Guardian, Daily Mail, IBWM and Football Italia. Follow him on Twitter @Gentleman_Ultra.