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Saturday, July 18, 2020

Andy Brassell on European football: Inter back to chase Juve?

Andy Brassell on European football: Inter back to chase Juve?

Juve's stumble means Inter's improvement is welcome but is it too late for a title race, asks Andy Brassell, as La Liga draws to a close with plenty in play...

Is the Serie A title race really over?

Many will have considered Inter's 4-0 over doomed SPAL on Thursday night as predictable. In reality, there is no such thing for the Nerazzurri. A team that shelled home points to Sassuolo at the death before squandering a goal and a man advantage against mid-table Bologna, also at San Siro, deserve our deepest suspicion.
That the men who have been driving Antonio Conte to distraction not only won convincingly after a succession of what their coach called "hiccups" post-match, but closed the gap on Juventus to six points, does make the run-in beguiling. There are still six games to go in Serie A and Juve's recent stumbles against Milan and the aforementioned Sassuolo have offered a glimmer of hope.
Now, it's up to Inter to take advantage and to really press the champions. Will it be too late to catch Maurizio Sarri's side? Probably, but a win for Inter at Roma on Sunday would be a huge fillip and prove that they can achieve the consistency that Conte demands. One never really knows what to expect from them and that scatty side has made them a huge long shot for the scudetto - so if you think they do have a slight chance, the market is good.
Back Inter to win Serie A at 42.00

Will Getafe hold on to the final Europa League place?

So much has changed since the return to action in Spain. Atlético Madrid resumed in sixth place yet have sealed a Champions League place with something to spare. Further south in the capital Getafe restarted with genuine hope of making the top four, having just missed out last term.
Yet now they face a trip to face Levante knowing that they still need a win to clinch Europa League football, unless Valencia and Granada drop points. Missing out would be hard on the excellent José Bordalás and his team, but Levante are not to be underestimated (see below).
After the chaos that has engulfed Valencia in recent weeks, with the dismissal of coach Albert Celades and a number of senior players informed that they will not be required next season on the ever of a game at Leganés, it is a miracle that they are still in with a chance. For Granada, reaching Europe would be a real vindication of the work of Diego Martínez directly after promotion, and they have played with great verve of late. Whether losing out on some of an already short holiday by being catapulted into the Europa League qualifiers is another question entirely.

Back Granada to beat Athletic Bilbao at 2.14

Can Leganés pull off the great escape?

While Getafe's achievements in recent years, their style has stopped them being truly loved as underdogs, with many Ajax supporters infuriated by their breaking up of the games in their Europa League tie in spring. Their neighbours Leganés are a different kettle of fish.
Their mascot Super Pepino (a giant cucumber) has given them cult appeal but many have rooted for them since the start of this year, when the relative minnows lost their two best forwards through little fault of their own. Firstly Sevilla paid Youssef En-Nesyri's release clause, and then Barcelona infamously did likewise with Martin Braithwaite - as a medical joker, so outside the transfer window, with Lega having no option to replace him.
Given that double body blow, it's astonishing that the colourful Javier Aguirre's side are still in with a shout going into the final day. Thursday's 2-0 win at Athletic, coupled with Celta's surprising home loss to mid-table Levante, means that they are still in it. They have to beat Real Madrid and hope Celta don't win at bottom club Espanyol, who have lost eight in a row. It's lucky that Lega don't believe in the impossible.
Back Leganés and Real Madrid to draw at 3.85