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Calcio Debate: Is The Scudetto Race Back On, Should Mario Balotelli Be Disciplined?

A colleague of mine, and Inter sympathiser I should add, mumbled to me yesterday that if there were still 10 league games to go, it would be Milan who would emerge as Scudetto victors this season.

It is hard to argue with this interpretation. The Rossoneri are firing on all cylinders at the moment. They have won four games on the bounce, as well as six of their last seven, and have conceded just two goals in as many months, scoring themselves 19 times.

Pippo Inzaghi just cannot stop scoring, having rippled the back of the net 10 times in his last seven games, Kaka is fully fit again, Mathieu Flamini has exploded in an unorthodox right-back role, while the whole team are playing like a real unit. “Even Giuseppe Favalli,” as Carlo Ancelotti amusingly put it, has been surprisingly good.

Inter, on the other hand, are stuttering. They have not won in their last three outings, conceding late goals to draw with Palermo and Juventus, while last night they fell to only their third defeat of the season, as Marcelo Zalayeta’s fantastic strike 17 minutes from time proved the difference at the Stadio San Paolo.

The Nerazzurri have also had some internal problems to deal with, which may have taken their focus off football. Adriano had his contract rescinded last week, Zlatan Ibrahimovic announced his desire to quit the club for a new challenge, while the Mario Balotelli furore just will not go away.

The 18-year-old is doing his very best to make the whole world dislike him, and his attitude yesterday evening was quite appalling. Despite being welcomed with open arms in Naples, a city often referred to in derogatory terms by the rest of Italy, and presented with an anti-racism award, Balotelli showed no respect, starting fights at every opportunity, wearing that angry, attitude-filled face, and turning on the likes of Fabiano Santacroce and Francesco Montervino, who were actually trying to help him. When Ezequiel Lavezzi had to be substituted after straining a muscle, Balotelli pushed the Argentine to tell him to hurry up, even though he was limping off the pitch in pain. The teenager is in need of a real kick up the backside, and Italy must never pick a player who behaves so despicably.

Inter are still in an incredibly favourable position. With five games remaining, they are seven points clear. Jose Mourinho’s men require just nine points to clinch the title. In order to throw it away, they will have to slip up in three of their matches, with at least one of these being a defeat. The Nerazzurri’s run-in is also very kind as they play Lazio, Siena and Atalanta at home, with Chievo and Cagliari away.

Milan, meanwhile, will certainly have to win all of their five games and, despite their form and momentum, this will still be some task seeing as they play Catania (a), Juventus (h), Udinese (a), Roma (h) and Fiorentina (a). The Rossoneri could not have hand-picked a tougher five fixtures with which to end the campaign.

Inter are red-hot favourites for the Scudetto, but having seen their lead over Milan halved from 14 points to seven in just three rounds, anything is possible. Before this weekend’s fixtures, sections of the Italian media labelled the Scudetto stand-off as Operazione Miracolo. The last time they so boldly branded an event was during the Kaka-Manchester City transfer saga in January, when the dramatic Monday where everything came to a head was labelled as D-Day the week before. Make of it what you will, but in five weeks we will find out whether the miracle is completed.

What are your views on this topic? Is the Scudetto race back on? Can Milan overtake Inter? What about Mario Balotelli’s controversial behaviour yesterday? Goal.com wants to know what YOU think…

Carlo Garganese, Goal.com