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All eyes on Inter

ROME, April 8- All eyes in Italy this weekend will be back on the San Siro to see how champions Inter Milan react after a nightmare week.

Inter host Chievo at the same stadium that was the scene of their two humiliating defeats inside four days that saw them between 3-0 by AC Milan in Serie A and then thrashed 5-2 by Schalke 04 in the Champions League.

Those four days were all it took for Inter’s season to unravel right under their noses.

They now sit five points behind Milan in the league with seven games left to play while their Champions League hopes are realistically over.

There is still the Italian Cup to play for but that would be a scant consolation for a team that did the treble last season.

Inter will at least welcome back Brazilian centre-back Lucio after he missed both crushing defeats through suspension, but his return will only serve to plug the gap left by Cristian Chivu’s ban, both domestically and in Europe as he was sent off in both disastrous encounters.

One player, however, cannot explain the loss of eight goals in two matches, or even more importantly the feeble way such a prestigious team could succumb in two games of such a magnitude.

The soul-searching will have gone on all week for Inter and their coach Leonardo, whose reputation has taken a huge hit.

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There is still much to play for, however, even if it is unrealistic to expect to progress in the Champions League.

Five points with seven games to go may seem like a mountain to climb but Milan have the harder run in with trips to Fiorentina, this weekend, Roma and Udinese to come.

A double is certainly not out of the question for Inter, who play Roma in the Cup semi-final.

They have also shown an ability to put lesser teams to the sword under Leonardo as his record of 11 wins in his first 13 league games proved.

And captain Javier Zanetti, who has been there, done that and seen it all before, called on the troops to keep their cool.

"We have to remain calm and serne so we can try to understand what the problems are and then kick-off from there, as we have done many times before," he said following the Schalke debacle.

"There’s no way we’ll throw away everything good we’ve done up until now just because of these two defeats."

The problem was not so much the defeats but the nature of them and the fact that they came in the two most important games of the season.

There is also no denying they’ve handed league leaders Milan a huge boost in the title run-in.

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Milan came into the derby in trouble having drawn at home to rock bottom Bari and then lost at Palermo in their previous two games.

But now they have an extended lead at the top — Napoli are second, three points back — and top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic will return from suspension against Fiorentina.

However, former Milan striker Alberto Gilardino believes his team can cause a surprise at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.

"So far in Florence we’ve shown that we can match anyone and that’s also how it will be on Sunday, we’ll give our all to make life difficult for Milan," he said.

The other title contenders, Napoli, face a tough trip to Bologna and without their suspended top scorer Edinson Cavani, although on a three-match winning run.

In other games Udnese host Roma as they look to hold onto the crucial fourth spot while chasers Lazio entertain Parma.

Fixtures (1300 GMT unless stated):


Inter Milan v Chievo (1600), Udinese v Roma (1845)

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Juventus v Genoa (1030), Bari v Catania, Bologna v Napoli, Cagliari v Brescia, Lazio v Parma, Palermo v Cesena, Sampdoria v Lecce, Fiorentina v AC Milan (1845)

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