Mancini backs Icardi to keep improving

The 23-year-old has enjoyed a fruitful season this term and scored his 15th Serie A goal on Saturday, but the former Manchester City manager insists he still has room to improve

Inter coach Roberto Mancini has backed Mauro Icardi to keep on improving after the captain made a match-winning contribution in Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Napoli.

Icardi opened the scoring in the fourth minute with a clinical finish after brilliantly controlling Gary Medel’s long ball, and then laid on the assist for Marcelo Brozovic to make it 2-0 at San Siro on Saturday as Inter dented Napoli’s hopes of catching Serie A leaders Juventus.

The Argentina striker now has four goals in five matches and took his tally to 15 in the league for the season, but Mancini insists the 23-year-old still has plenty of room to develop.

“Players can keep improving even at 31, so Mauro can work at his game and get better,” he told Mediaset premium. 

Icardi linked well with fellow forward Stevan Jovetic, but Mancini feels that their partnership could have proved more fruitful this season.
READ MORE  | Icardi & Brozovic earn Inter victory

“I think they could have done better at certain times because they are players who can play together for the different characteristics they have,” he added.

“There were moments this season in which they could do much better. Against Napoli they did very well at times, other times not so much but this can happen.”

Inter’s win means they move to within three points of third-placed Roma, who play Atalanta on Sunday, but Mancini believes Champions League qualification is still a long shot for his side.

“I do not know if we can get third, there are points available,” he said. “We do not have many chances but as long as there are points available you have to fight then we’ll see at the end.

“I don’t think we’ve got much of a chance, but we have to keep trying and will see where we are on May 15.”

Inter 2-0 Napoli: Icardi and Brozovic boost Champions League hopes

The hosts moved to within three points of third-placed Roma with a deserved victory while Maurizio Sarri’s men saw their faint hopes of catching Juventus take a blow

Inter gave their Champions League hopes a big boost while simultaneously striking a potentially fatal blow to Napoli’s Serie A title chances with a 2-0 victory at San Siro on Saturday.Roberto Mancini’s Inter went into the contest against the title hopefuls six points adrift of third-placed Roma and looking to crank up the pressure on the capital city club, who play Atalanta on Sunday.Second-placed Napoli’s need for the points was equally crucial as a win would have seen them move to within three points of Juve ahead of the league leaders’ encounter with Palermo.But the visitors lacked penetration in the absence of suspended top scorer Gonzalo Higuain, and first-half goals from Mauro Icardi and Marcelo Brozovic earned a deserved win for Inter.In-form Nerazzurri captain Icardi got the hosts off to a great start with his fourth goal in five matches after just four minutes, despite suspicions of offside, and he then turned provider for Brozovic to strike on the counter-attack, making it 2-0 before half-time.Napoli – who won November’s reverse fixture 2-1 – continued to toil in the final third after the break, and Jeison Murillo wasted a fine chance to add further gloss.The match marked the first meeting between Inter boss Mancini and Maurizio Sarri since the Napoli coach was banned for directing a homophobic slur at his counterpart during a Coppa Italia tie in January.There was a handshake between the rival coaches pre-kick off, though, and Mancini was celebrating first in the fourth minute.Gary Medel’s excellent ball over the top was brilliantly controlled by Icardi and the skipper provided a clinical left-foot finish, Napoli’s pleas for offside going unheard.Napoli dominated the ball but were restricted to long-range efforts. Marek Hamsik’s dipping shot was safely parried by Samir Handanovic before the Inter goalkeeper made a brilliant one-handed stop from Allan’s drive.Inter had scarcely threatened since the goal, but Napoli were let off the hook when Stevan Jovetic’s teasing right-wing cross was headed wide at the back post by Ivan Perisic with the goal gaping.It was 2-0 before the break. Jovetic’s throughball picked out Icardi and he brilliantly teed up Brozovic to dink a fine finish past Pepe Reina.Napoli still struggled to penetrate after the break, but Jose Callejon was unlucky with a well-controlled volley from Hamsik’s cross that cleared the left-hand post.Inter were keen to exploit the counter-attack and Murillo wastefully headed over the crossbar when unmarked from Icardi’s corner.Soon after, Reina spilled a simple ball into the box and Kalidou Koulibaly headed Jovetic’s chip off the line.The visitors tried to commit men forward in the closing stages, but Inter – who had failed to beat Napoli in their past six league meetings – controlled the game brilliantly and held firm for a crucial win.

Higuain is half the Napoli team, warns Bagni

The striker is suspended for the weekend’s match against Inter, and the club’s former player has lamented his absence

Napoli are only half a team without Gonzalo Higuain in attack, according to former midfielder Salvatore Bagni.

The Argentina international has scored 30 goals in 31 Serie A appearances in his most productive season to date, helping to fire Napoli into Scudetto contention.

Higuain’s furious reaction to a dismissal in the 3-1 loss to Udinese saw him slapped with a four-game ban – though this was reduced to three on appeal – meaning he will sit out Saturday’s crucial encounter with Inter at San Siro.

And Bagni, who enjoyed spells with both clubs during the 1980s, believes the loss of Napoli’s number nine will hurt them over the coming matches.

“With all due respect to [Manolo] Gabbiadini, who would play in any side, Pipita is 50 per cent of the team,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “With his play, he has often resolved many complicated games.

“He is unique, he knows how to score goals, he assists, takes part in the build-up. I don’t think there is an equal striker like him in the world.”
READ MORE  | Napoli hopeful of retaining Higuain
 
Assessing Higuain’s punishment, he continued: “Four games was excessive, but also three I consider to be exaggerated. They did not take into account the fair play of the lad, who has never been sent off and always had the correct attitude on the field.

“The reaction of Udinese was the source of it, in my opinion, because he was nervous and tense for the way they had started the game. In those moments he may have thought that defeat would have prevented them from fighting to the end for the Scudetto.”

Higuain has been linked with a move away from Napoli at the end of the season, with Chelsea reported to be keen admirers, but Bagni does not believe he will be sold unless a club matches his buy-out clause – reported to be worth €94 million.

When asked if he backs Higuain to stay, Bagni said: “I think so. [President Aurelio] De Laurentiis will not entertain any discounts on his buy-out clause. There are only a few foreign clubs who can afford to pay that much.

“Now, it’s up to the president to meet the demands of Pipita asking for higher wages. Do not forget that the next will be his last contract of a certain size.”

Ronaldo and Messi would score less in Serie A – Miranda

The Brazilian defender believes the Liga duo would find goals harder to come by if they plied their trade in the Italian top flight

Inter defender Miranda insists Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi would find it difficult to score as many goals in Serie A like they do in La Liga.

Real Madrid star Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Messi are the all-time leading goalscorers for their respective clubs in Spain’s top flight.

Ronaldo has netted a La Liga-best 30 goals this season, eight more than five-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi.

But former Atletico Madrid centre-back Miranda, who came up against Ronaldo and Messi during his time in Spain, believes the pair would struggle to match those feats in Italy.

“They are both fantastic players and would score a lot of goals in every league,” Miranda told GloboEsporte.

“However, here in Italy, they would not arrive in front of the net as often as they do in Spain because teams are a lot more organised tactically.”

Miranda swapped Atletico for Milan in the off-season, ending his four-year association with the Spanish capital club.

The 31-year-old enjoyed considerable success in Madrid, winning La Liga and Europa League titles, while he collected a Champions League runners-up medal in 2014. 
READ MORE  | Isco’s agent confirms Juventus interest

That was thanks to the guidance of coach Diego Simeone, who is preparing for another Champions League final-four tie against Bayern Munich.

Simeone’s exploits have not gone unnoticed by some of Europe’s biggest clubs, while the Argentine coach has talked up a return to former team Inter, where he spent two years as a player in the 1990s.

However, Miranda does not expect Simeone to leave Atletico anytime soon.

“I can only see him as the Atletico coach,” he added. “He is happy in Madrid and I think he will stay there for a long time to come.

“Just as Atletico though, we have a great coach [Roberto Mancini] at Inter as well.”

Sarri incident 'in the past', says Mancini

The Nerazzuri boss has affirmed he will shake his adversary’s hand in the Serie A clash, after the last meeting between the teams ended in an ugly clash

Inter head coach Roberto Mancini insists there will be no tension between him and Napoli counterpart Maurizio Sarri when the two meet on Saturday.

The pair fell out in spectacular fashion following a Coppa Italia meeting earlier in the season, with Mancini accusing Sarri of being a racist and a homophobe.

Sarri later apologised, and Saturday’s meeting at San Siro will represent the first time they have met since that fiery confrontation in January.

But the Inter boss stressed in his pre-match media conference that there would be no hard feelings between the pair.

“I’ll shake hands with Sarri, the incident is in the past,” he said.
READ MORE  | Icardi rules out Premier League switch

Mancini also dismissed reports of a rift with top scorer Mauro Icardi.

“There have never been any problems. If a player is on the bench they’re never happy, it’s happened to Icardi, [Stevan] Jovetic and [Rodrigo] Palacio,” he said.

“There have never been any problems, as people have written. I don’t know why [they wrote that].”

Inter trail Roma – in the third and final Champions League qualification place – by six points with as many games remaining, and Mancini is not optimistic his side can overhaul their rivals.

“I don’t think there’s much chance, but with 18 points to play for we have to think positive,” he said.