Speculation is increasing that Inter Milan manager Rafa Benitez could lose his job if the European champions doesn’t turn around their poor start to the Serie A season in a hurry.
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Entering Sunday’s match at Chievo Verona, Inter has won only one of its last four matches and suffered the embarrassment of getting beaten by city rival AC Milan in last weekend’s derby from a goal by its former striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Benitez noted after the derby loss that Inter’s outlook could change when the transfer market opens in January. But club president Massimo Moratti sees no reason to wait.
"Inter already has the players to be competitive right now," Moratti said. "Losing a derby happens, but I didn’t like anything about how we approached the game. The problem wasn’t that Milan attacked us, it was that we didn’t play our game.
"(Benitez) was chosen specifically because he was one of the candidates with the most experience, poise and ability to succeed," Moratti added, explaining how he chose the new coach after Jose Mourinho departed to Real Madrid. "It wasn’t easy to take over a team that won everything, gave everything it had, and get it to start over from zero. But now he’s got to get this squad going again."
Milan leads the standings with 26 points, Lazio is next with 25, Napoli has 21, and Juventus and Inter 20 each.
"I don’t like this six-point gap and nobody else does, either," Benitez said. "We need continuity and we need players in top form, but right now a lot of players are returning from injury – like (Diego) Milito and (Esteban) Cambiasso – and there’s no time for them to get back into form because we play twice a week.
Another Inter player was injured when Romania defender Cristian Chivu exited Wednesday’s friendly with Italy in the first half with a muscle strain.
Milan, which hosts Fiorentina this weekend, has its own share of injury problems with Filippo Inzaghi out for the season and Alexandre Pato also out, although having the luxury of a squad that also features Ibrahimovic, Ronaldinho and Robinho gives coach Massimiliano Allegri plenty of options.
"With this squad we have an obligation to fight for the title, which we haven’t won since 2004," said Milan vice president Adriano Galliani. "The Champions League is always our priority but after seven years we also want the scudetto."
In other games this weekend, Lazio visits Parma, Napoli hosts Bologna and Juventus is at Genoa.
Roma, which is sixth with 19 points, hosts Udinese without midfielder Daniele De Rossi, who also strained a muscle in Wednesday’s friendly, hobbling off in pain.
Also this weekend, it’s: Brescia vs. Cagliari; Catania vs. Bari; Cesena vs. Palermo; and Lecce vs. Sampdoria.