Injury To Milito Will Cost Inter Champions League Football

The Argentine is sidelined for the remainder of the season and defeat to Fiorentina and the 1-1 draw with AC Milan leaves Inter without an attacking focal point which will cost them a top three finish.
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The Argentine is sidelined for the remainder of the season and defeat to Fiorentina and the 1-1 draw with AC Milan leaves Inter without an attacking focal point which will cost them a top three finish.

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The Derby Della Madonnina is continuously considered a grand affair, even by those who turn their nose up at Italian football. The spectacle of witnessing Serie A's grander duo - Inter and AC Milan - do battle at the San Siro can be unparalleled when the pairing are at their brilliant best.

While this season may not have seen Inter and AC at their most formidable, the former having won once in their last 10 away games in all competitions and the latter uninspiring over the early months of the campaign, a facet that saw Massimiliano Allegri come close to being shown the exit door, seeing these two giants of Italian football go head to head in the battle for domestic supremacy is an opportunity that football connoisseurs will never turn down.

The two teams may well have failed to reach the heights of their illustrious history this season - it's difficult to remember that a Jose Mourinho led Inter were crowned European champions a little under three years ago - while Milan have drifted away from the chasing pack following their failure to retain the Scudetto last season at the expense of Juventus.

Nevertheless, the Nerazzurri were on hand to deny their Milanese rivals the perfect week, the Rossoneri having defeated Barcelona at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza in a superb footballing display on Wednesday night.

In truth, it was a tale of two halves. AC dominated proceedings in the first half, while Inter, in amongst the smoke from the half time flares let off, or the collective rocket let off up the player's backsides by Andrea Stramaccioni at the interval, were the stronger of the two teams in the second.

The blue and black striped Milan side had Samir Handanovic to thank for the fact they only went into half time 1-0 down, with Stephan El Shaarawy's delightful outside of the boot finish handing AC the initiative before Ezequiel Schelotto's 70th minute header to hand both teams a point, a well deserved result was the opinion of those watching.

However, the stalemate highlighted one key facet missing from the Inter starting XI - the need for a striker. Injury to Diego Milito in the 2-0 Europa League win over CFR Cluj a little under two weeks ago means the Argentine will be sidelined for the remainder of the season, a loss that Javier Zanetti highlighted by dedicating his captains armband to his fallen compatriot.

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Without the 33-year-old, Inter lack a striker that can provide a focal point of which to aim towards. His nine goals and five assists in Serie A point to this, with Milito the player that will naturally and continuously threaten the opposition in and around the 18 yard box.

His cruciate knee injury leaves Rodrigo Palacio and Antonio Cassano as Stramaccioni's primary frontman and while the 37-year-old may have January arrival Tommaso Rocchi available at his disposal, his lack of playing times - four appearances since signing from Lazio - and goals - zero all season - means the aforementioned duo will be the first choice striking pairing between now and the end of the campain.

And this is where Inter will falter this season. Palacio may have 16 goals to his name in all competitions this season, making him the club's leading goalscorer, but he's better suited operating between the midfield and defence, much like Cassano, in a natural number 10 role rather than number 9.

An example during the 1-1 draw was, with the encounter edging towards full-time, Palacio was picked out at the back post before the Argentine headed back across goal, only for no teammate to be on the receiving end of his ball across the six yard box.

Any natural striker would've picked that up and buried to hand Inter the initiative, but by being paired by Cassano; there was inevitably going to be no player feeding on the knockdown, a knockdown that a player of Milito's ilk would've likely been on the end of.

There has been talk of a possible short term replacement arriving between now and May to allow Milito the opportunity to regain match fitness over the summer, with the retired Ruud van Nistelrooy and, distressingly for Inter fans, John Carew linked with a move to the San Siro.

And while no move for either or both has been made as of yet, the loss to Fiorentina last weekend and the draw with Milan highlights a need to bring in another striker to spearhead the Inter attack between now and the end of the season.

Without a natural attacking threat on the frontline, there is a real possibility that Inter will fail in their pursuit to attain Champions League football, especially with Napoli and Lazio to play on Monday night, at the time of writing, and the possibility to tighten their grasp on a place in the top three.