Kovacic must leave Inter – Srna

The midfielder joined the club from Dinamo Zagreb in January but the Nerazzurri find themselves struggling in mid-table in Serie A

Croatia defender Darijo Srna has told compatriot Mateo Kovacic he must leave Inter or risk hampering his progress.

The 20-year-old joined the Nerazzurri from Dinamo Zagreb in January, but though he has made 11 appearances in Serie A this season, the club continue to struggle and sit ninth in the table.

That has led to questions over the future of Inter boss Walter Mazzarri and Srna believes his Croatia team-mate should cut his losses and join a club with better immediate prospects.

“Mateo is one of the best young players in Serie A, but, if he wants to progress, he must go to another club. Inter are far from their glory days,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

Srna is one of several experienced players who have been left out of Croatia’s squad for their friendly with Argentina at Upton Park on Wednesday, along with the likes of Mario Mandzukic, Dejan Lovren and Luka Modric.

But the Shakhtar Donetsk right-back has backed the decision of coach Niko Kovac and feels it will provide the country’s younger players with invaluable experience at international level.

“We have the opportunity to change future of Croatian football tomorrow against Argentina. I think that coach Niko Kovac made the right decision, it’s better to rest some of us, older players. Young players will replace us some day and this game they will remember all their life.”

Inter woes not that bad – Mazzarri

The Italian was upbeat despite seeing his side concede a late equaliser on Sunday

Inter coach Walter Mazzarri feels there is cause for optimism despite the 2-2 draw with Verona fuelling further speculation regarding his future.

In an incident-packed game, Inter looked to be heading for a much-needed win thanks to a Mauro Icardi double which turned the scoreline around following Luca Toni’s early opener. 

Mazzarri’s side were reduced to 10 men soon after half-time when Gary Medel was given a second booking for handball in the area but Samir Handanovic thwarted Toni to register his third spot kick save of the season. 

But Verona substitute Nicolas Lopez ensured there would be no reprieve with an equaliser two minutes from time that leaves Inter ninth in the table and winless in three games. 

Media reports have linked former defender and current Sampdoria coach Sinisa Mihajlovic with the job but Mazzarri saw enough to give him hope for the future.

He told Sky Sport Italia: “We had a great first half, though we were punished at the first mistake on the counter. It could’ve been a heavy blow, but we reacted, turned the game around and were unlucky not to go 3-1 up.

“I thought we dominated the game  for about 70-80 minutes, though of course it was normal to struggle when going down to 10 men. The fitness levels also fell away as we are in an injury emergency situation.

“We still managed to go round them and put dozens of crosses into the box. You need patience in those situations and I thought Inter played a great first half.

“On the equaliser we allowed Verona to go round us. We are accustomed to attacking and not sitting back, while we were also exhausted and let Verona move the ball around in the box.

“It’s normal that when a game runs away from you like this and the incidents go against you like that red card, it all becomes more difficult. We have so many injured players and this break will hopefully help us achieve acceptable fitness levels again.

“We are back in Europe this season, which means playing every three days, and have undertaken a project of helping young players to grow.

“Of course when fans are accustomed to being at the top, it can pile pressure on. It’s one thing to grow young players when you aim for normal targets and another when you go for bigger things.

“It’s not that bad. The team had a couple of bad performances, but they are united and play good football, so I have reason to be optimistic.”

Inter 2-2 Verona: Last-gasp Lopez denies Nerazzurri

The striker struck in the 90th minute to pile more misery on Inter who appeared to be on the brink of a much needed victory

Nicolai Lopez scored an injury-time equaliser as Verona snatched a last-gasp point in a 2-2 draw with Inter at San Siro.

Luca Toni scored an early opener but Icardi volleyed a first-half equaliser and then tapped in a second to turn the game on it’s head.

But the drama was far from over as Gary Medel received his marching orders for handling in the area, only for Samir Handanovic to save yet another penalty.

However, there was nothing he could do to stop Lopez from scoring a late equaliser, which makes it three games without a win for Inter.

Verona made a much stronger start and went ahead with a slick counter-attack – led by the returning Emil Hallfredsson – that saw Lazaros Christodoulopoulos nod into the path of Toni and the veteran striker expertly volley home from six yards.

The hosts rallied and equalised in almost identical fashion in the 18th minute as a deep cross was nodded into the centre by Rodrigo Palacio and Icardi was on hand to volley in from close range.

It lifted Inter and they almost completed the turnaround moments later as Zdravko Kuzmanovic’s 25-yard curling shot cannoned off the post.

The end-to-end nature of the game continued with a superb reaction save from Rafael denying Nemanja Vidic’s powerful header before an inswinging Christodoulopoulos cross evaded everyone but the razor-sharp Handanovic in Inter’s goal.

It took less than three minutes of the restart for Inter to take the lead as Palacio found space and drilled to the far post where Icardi tapped in his seventh Serie A goal this season.

Verona had a chance to draw level from the spot after 50 minutes when Medel handled Juanito’s shot, earning him a second booking and an early bath.

However, Handanovic guessed right and saved Toni’s penalty to register his third spot kick save of the season.

Christodoulopoulos hit the bar and Toni clipped wide from close range as the visitors pressed for an equaliser, which finally arrived as Lopez linked up with fellow substitute Javier Saviola and slammed home.

Mazzarri trudged straight down the tunnel as the final whistle blew, with speculation sure to rage about his job security throughout the week.

Mazzarri: Vidic not to blame for defensive errors

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Inter v Verona Preview: Mazzarri fighting the sack at San Siro

With the Milan side 10 points behind Serie A leaders Juventus, the former Napoli coach is under immense pressure, but Juan Jesus says the club should stand by their man

Inter boss Walter Mazzarri is fighting for his job as the club look to spark their season into life after a sluggish start at home to Verona on Sunday.

The Nerazzurri are ninth in Serie A, 10 points adrift of leaders Juventus after 10 games, and the coach’s position at San Siro has become the centre of frenzied speculation. 

Former owner Massimo Moratti quit his role as honorary president last month after reports that he was unsuccessful in his desire to see Mazzarri sacked.

And just when it looked like the team had turned the corner, after scrappy wins over Cesena and Sampdoria, Inter lost 2-0 at then-bottom Parma last weekend.

A 1-1 Europa League draw at Saint-Etienne followed on Thursday – an impressive result that kept Inter four points clear at the top of Group F.

Inter, though, will be under pressure to return to winning ways when the 11th-placed Verona head to Milan on Sunday but defender Juan Jesus insists the team are behind their boss.

“We played with great desire [against Saint-Etienne],” the Brazilian said.

“It’s important that we play well against Hellas Verona, with this determination and desire.

“We’re with Mazzarri. He’s our coach.”

Mazzarri took over at Inter last year after a successful four-year stint in charge of Napoli and he has called on the support of the San Siro faithful for Sunday’s clash.

“We want to do well,” he said. “[We] would like the fans to spur us on because my lads deserve it.”

Verona lost 3-1 at home to Inter’s city rivals AC Milan before being thumped 6-2 at Napoli last month.

Since then, they have drawn 1-1 with Lazio and Cesena and are going in search of their first win in more than a month on Sunday.

No Verona player has scored more than two league goals this term, while for Inter, Mauro Icardi and Pablo Daniel Osvaldo have weighed in with five and four, respectively.

Osvaldo returned from a thigh injury to feature off the bench at Saint-Etienne, but Yuto Nagatomo, Jonathan and Fredy Guarin are still battling problems.

Inter boast a good record against Verona, though, having won the last six matches between the teams in all competitions.

That included a 4-2 triumph in the corresponding fixture last term, in which both sides had a man sent off.