Milan — Inter Milan coach Luciano Spalletti has laughed off any comparisons between himself and Jose Mourinho, yet he has done more than the club’s previous 10 coaches to emulate the Portuguese’s success at San Siro.
For the first time since Mourinho led them to consecutive league triumphs in 2010 before leaving for Real Madrid, Inter are serious Serie A title contenders and can cement their position at the top of the table at home to Udinese on Saturday.
Title rivals Napoli and Juventus face potentially tricky away trips to Torino and Bologna, respectively, with the latter fixture taking place on Sunday.
Inter again displayed their resilience under former AS Roma coach Spalletti by holding Juve to a goalless draw last week, mimicking their 0-0 stalemate at Napoli in October and becoming the first team to keep a clean sheet away to the champions since August 2015.
Spalletti heavily rotated his side for Tuesday’s Coppa Italia game against Serie C minnows Pordenone, which almost backfired as Inter only squeezed through to the quarterfinals by winning a penalty shoot-out following a goalless draw.
Before the game with Pordenone, Spalletti asked journalists to stop comparing him to Mourinho, saying: "I’ve been here for two days, he made history".
Yet Spalletti has made history with Inter, overseeing their best start to a season in taking 29 points from their first 11 games and with no European football to distract his side, unlike Roma, Napoli and Juventus, he has a real chance of adding to the club’s 18 league triumphs.
Against Udinese, they will be looking to continue their imperious home form, which has helped them win seven of eight league games at San Siro, although defender Andrea Ranocchia believes teams are more determined to try and beat Inter now they are riding high.
"Being at the top of the league annoys people, but it’s normal that you have more enemies when you are at the top than when you are not," he said. "But we are calm, we are aware of our qualities. We are building something important with this coach [Spalletti] and his staff. The teams we face will always give 100% against us but we must keep going as we are."
Napoli, who also drew their last game 0-0 at home to Fiorentina, are still likely to
be without injured forward Lorenzo Insigne when they visit Torino, who are unbeaten in their last six games.
Juventus, meanwhile, are still missing captain Gianluigi Buffon and defender Giorgio Chiellini for their trip to Bologna. Also, the poor form of defender Paulo Dybala, who was left out of the game at Inter, is a big talking point in Italy.