Inter ready to erupt


ROME, January 21- Inter Milan coach Leonardo faces possibly his sternest test yet of his fledgling career with the reigning Serie A champions as his all-conquering team travel to Udinese this weekend.Leonardo has made a perfect start as Inter boss, winning five out of five games, including four in the league.

Inter have banged in an impressive 15 goals in that time at a rate of three a game — a far cry from earlier in the season under Rafael Benitez when they were scoring at less than half that frequency.

However, if there has been a worrying aspect to Leonardo’s tenure, it has been Inter’s defending.

They have conceded seven in those five games and have looked vulnerable at times.

At home to Genoa and Cesena they conceded two goals but scraped through 3-2 each time.

And the last team they will want to be facing at this time is free-scoring Udinese, who have banged in four goals in each of their last two games, both away from home.

Udinese were unlucky not to come away from the San Siro with three points when they led AC Milan 3-1 and then in injury time 4-3 before drawing 4-4.

But they followed that up with a 4-2 win at Genoa last weekend and can also boast the league’s top scorer in Antonio Di Natale.

Leonardo so far has not seemed too worried about his side’s leaky defence, describing it as coincidence that most of those goals have come from set-pieces.

And after squandering a two goal lead against lowly Cesena before snatching a 3-2 win, Leonardo seemed equally unperturbed.

"It was a very difficult game, almost a paradox, we were playing very well, went 2-0 up but then we made the change (Diego Milito came off) and we tried to settle down, there was a bit of ping pong and what happened, happened," he said.

"But then in the second half we gave away less, fewer counter opportunities. In general it was a struggle with great sacrifice from everyone.

"We struggled a lot, it was the longest game of my life as coach but in the end it was worth it."

Milito is not certain to play against Udinese having picked up a hamstring injury that forced him off against Cesena.

If he does miss the game it will be a blow to Inter, who want to maintain momentum as they chase down their arch rivals.

Milan come into their home clash against Cesena on the back of two league draws in a row.

However, they seemed to be back on track in midweek as they thumped Bari 3-0 in the Coppa Italia.

They were boosted by Antonio Cassano making his first start for the club since his January move from Sampdoria.

He, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho linked up well and gave a glimpse of what may be to come from the league leaders if those three start to click into gear.

Behind them several teams have struggled to capitalise on their recent slip-ups as Juventus, Roma, Lazio and Napoli have all also dropped points.

Juventus face the toughest test this weekend and a defeat at Sampdoria could all but rule them out of title contention.

Roma host Cagliari, who changed coaches in midweek, appointing former Argentina midfielder Diego Simeone, while Napoli and Lazio are both on their travels, away at Bari and Bologna respectively.

Fixtures (1400 GMT unless stated):


Palermo v Brescia (1700), Parma v Catania (1700), Roma v Cagliari (1945)


Udinese v Inter Milan (1130), Bari v Napoli, Bologna v Lazio, Chievo v Genoa, Fiorentina v Lecce, Sampdoria v Juventus, AC Milan v Cesena (1945)