Who is Inter target Mandi?

Inter are being linked with a free transfer for Real Betis defender Aissa Mandi, but who is the 29-year-old defender?

Mandi has become one of the hottest names ahead of the next transfer window, as his contract with the La Liga side expires in June.

Multiple reports have linked the 29-year-old with the Nerazzurri, who have offered the Algeria international a deal worth €2m a season, according to Estadio Deportivo and Le Buteur.

Mandi will reportedly announce his decision to leave his current club next week and Inter are reportedly in pole position to sign the centre-back.

He was born in France, but of Algerian origins, whom he chose to represent on an international level.

The former Stade de Reims defender, who moved to Real Betis in July 2016, is a versatile defender, who can operate at both full-backs, but prefers to play in the middle.

His career started in France with mentioned Reims and made his debut in Ligue 2 with the first team 11 years ago.

He was a regular in the starting line-up in 2011-12 and helped the side win promotion to Ligue 1.

After six seasons and 169 games with Reims, he moved to Real Betis for a reported €2.8m.

The defender also contributed with 14 goals during his time with the French side and continued to impress in Spain.

Mandi, who has played 24 games in La Liga this term, was the Player of the Year at Betis in 2018-19 and has played 169 competitive games with Los Verdiblancos since arriving five years ago.

The versatile defender, capped 60 times by Algeria, won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2019, where he played alongside Milan midfielder Ismael Bennacer.

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Up to a 1,000 fans in Serie A from May 1?

Fans up to a maximum of 1,000 spectators could be allowed back into stadiums in Italy from May 1.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi announced the new COVID-19 measures in Italy in a press conference, but Sky Sport Italia reveals further news is awaited for the sports world.

The news agency ANSA reported public access should be allowed in the sports facilities, with up to a maximum of 1,000 people for outdoors and up to 500 for indoors, for all competitive events recognised by CONI and CIP.

The Italian Government recently gave the go ahead for Rome to host Euro 2020 this summer and the FIGC President Gabriele Gravina hopes to have fans back for the Coppa Italia Final between Juventus and Atalanta in May.

“There are reflections underway. We will certainly have the Europeans with the public and we also want spectators at the Coppa Italia Final,” the undersecretary Andrea Costa told Sky Sport Italia.

“On the May 1 date, there’s still nothing confirmed.”

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Report: Napoli want to keep Meret

Napoli will reportedly do everything they can to keep goalkeeper Alex Meret in goal, amid rumours of interest from Inter and Roma.

The Italian shot stopper has competed with David Ospina during coach Gennaro Gattuso’s time with the Partenopei and the lack of guarantees in Naples has ended in speculation of a possible farewell this summer.

The Azzurri signed the goalkeeper three years ago for a reported €25m but reports emerged with rumours of interest from rivals Inter and Roma.

La Repubblica claims today that Napoli will do everything to avoid the sale of Meret, who has played 14 times in Serie A this term.

The report claims Napoli plan for a future with the 24-year-old in goal and the former Empoli player, capped once by Italy, has already played 70 competitive games for the Partenopei.

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Mancini: ‘Inter set the example’

Roberto Mancini insists Inter should ‘set the example for everyone’ in Serie A and sees similarities with Antonio Conte, while he won’t risk Nicolò Zaniolo at Euro 2020.

The Azzurri boss also spoke about the vaccine push for players ahead of Euro 2020, you can read the rest of his comments here.

When it comes to picking his squad for the tournament, it looks as if Roma talent Zaniolo will miss out.

“The Zaniolo situation is a delicate one, because we have to wait and see if he recovers. He is a young player, he’s already had two serious injuries and we cannot afford to put him at risk,” said Mancini.

“Moise Kean is doing very well in Paris, he is maturing, is a player who can really become excellent, and I’m sure he’ll be playing with the Italy side for many years to come.”

Back to club level, Inter are 11 points clear at the top of the Serie A table and Antonio Conte said he faced the ‘ultimate challenge’ by accepting the job.

“Inter are a team with great prestige in Italy and the world. They have a great team this year and it proves that when you work hard with consistency and focus, the results arrive. They should set the example for everyone.

“When I arrived at Inter, the club hadn’t won for many years then either, then we got the Coppa Italia and the Scudetto, building up to the Inter that won everything with the Treble. There are many affinities between the experiences.”

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Napoli’s new fashion designer kits

Napoli are expected to announce the release of two new kits and accessories in collaboration with Kappa and fashion designer Marcelo Burlon.

The jerseys continue Burlon’s recurring motif of neon wings, which you can usually see on his T-Shirts for hundreds of pounds.

The first is yellow with the blue wings, while the second kit is black with blue wings.

This collaboration seems to also include hats and even a football.

Although the announcement is not yet official, the images of the photo shoot have emerged on social media.

It’s reported they could be used this weekend against Inter.

The yellow one is for the goalkeeper and the black kit for the outfield players.

This effectively takes the number of kits Napoli have released this season to six, including the special edition ‘Argentina’ tribute that was produced in tribute to Diego Armando Maradona.

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Skriniar: ‘Inter are reaping the rewards’

Milan Skriniar admitted Inter ‘never thought’ they would be 11 points clear with eight games left. ‘We are reaping the rewards for the work we have done’.

Skriniar has played 26 times in the League this term and has contributed to a great run of 11 consecutive wins in Serie A, to give the Nerazzurri a great advantage in the Scudetto battle.

“We would never have thought of having this advantage with eight games left,” Skriniar told Sky Sport Italia. “But we are working to get as high as possible.

“We train everyday with great joy and a great attitude. Every day we know we can improve and do better and better.”

Skriniar said coach Antonio Conte always tells them to focus on the next task in hand and not look too far ahead.

“He tells us every day that we have to work, train every time without looking at how many games we have left,” Skriniar added. “We just have to work at each training session, thinking about the next opponent without calculating.”

And the Slovakia international said it’s not only the three defenders who are working for the clean sheets and praised his teammates for helping out at the back.

“It’s not just the three of us in defence, the whole team does,” he added. “You can see even in the last few games that we all defended a little lower, very compact.

“The opponents hardly ever had a shot on target. Our defensive phase begins with the attackers and our offensive phase starts with the goalkeeper.

“The important thing is to know that in front of us we have strong players who hold up the ball and who can score goals when we break, from outside or inside the area.

“I have to praise them for the work they are doing in defence.”

Despite the success in the League, Inter were eliminated from both the Champions League and the Coppa Italia before their rivals in Serie A.

“The elimination from the Champions League has given us a little more strength,” he said. “It allowed us to unite even more.

“Now, we are reaping the rewards of the work we have done in a year and a half. We are happy and proud of this, and we want it to continue.”

Skriniar was asked if the Scudetto was a word he was allowed to use.

“As I said, we take one game at a time,” he said. “But the sooner it comes, the better.”

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Lukaku: ‘Serie A is hard work’

Romelu Lukaku admits he did not expect Inter to be on the verge of Scudetto success already, while Antonio Conte’s staff won’t let him bench press weights.

The striker spoke to 433 in an Instagram Live chat, sitting pretty 11 points clear at the top of the Serie A table.

“I feel good, we are working really hard. There were lots of ups and downs last season, but there are a lot of young players in the squad, so I think taken another step forward. There are many games to go and we’re hungry to achieve our results.”

Lukaku was asked if he expected to be this far ahead of the chasing pack in mid-April.

“Honestly, no. I think Serie A is a really complicated league, you have to prepare for every single game and are always challenged. Every match is a different test. It all helps me become a better player, but it’s hard work.

“I think the defenders and goalkeeper are doing a great job, while we forwards also know that, if we don’t allow chances at the back, then sooner or later we’ll score a goal.

“Conte always says the striker is the first line of defence, so with Lautaro Martinez, Alexis Sanchez and Andrea Pinamonti, we all try to block the opposition from building out from the back. We make life difficult for them.

“I think all four of our strikers are very generous and the whole team benefits from that.”

While Lukaku is known for blowing past defenders with sheer power, he reveals the Nerazzurri don’t encourage him to get too muscular.

“When I was 15 years old, I could bench press 100kg, but I’m not really allowed to since I came to Italy. The first day I arrived, I tried to go on the weights, and our fitness coaches gave me a bad look.

“Basically, the only thing I’m allowed to do in the gym is co-ordination exercises with these elastic bands around my waist to find stability.”

It is a turning point for Inter, who even unveiled a new club logo and changed their name to Inter Milano.

“It’s part of the modernisation of Inter. I think last season we did really well and people had been waiting 10 years to see Inter at the top again. We reached the Europa League Final and I can’t wait to see this logo on the shirt next season.”

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‘De Vrij clearly superior to De Ligt’

Dutch pundit and former player Willem van Hanegem claims Inter defender Stefan de Vrij is ‘clearly superior’ to Juventus star Matthijs de Ligt.

While De Vrij is considerably older at 29, it means he also has far more experience both of football in general and of Serie A, having joined Lazio in 2014 and Inter in 2018.

De Ligt is just 21, but Juventus paid €85m to sign him from Ajax in the summer of 2019.

Former Dutch international and current pundit Van Hanegem wrote in his column for newspaper Algemeen Dagblad that De Vrij ought to be the first-choice partner for Virgil van Dijk.

“De Vrij is simply the best defender in Serie A. I have found him to be clearly superior to De Ligt for a long time,” he wrote.

“De Vrij is going to take the Serie A title, but here people just want to talk about Virgil van Dijk. De Vrij really has become one of the best defenders in the world. It just seems that many people don’t want to see it.”

Van Hanegem also noted that De Vrij is “very modest on the field, he plays completely in the interest of the team, but outside of that, he could do with patting himself on the back a little more.”

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Emerson to Juve for Alex Sandro?

Reports are gathering steam that Juventus will try to sell Alex Sandro to Chelsea with Emerson Palmieri going the other way.

It is by no means the first time this has been suggested, but the Bianconeri are eager to monetise on players to cover mounting financial issues.

Calciomercato.com point out Juve have almost entirely absorbed the cost of Alex Sandro’s transfer and would be glad to lose his €6m per season wages.

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel is a known fan of the Portuguese player, having already wanted to sign him at Paris Saint-Germain in 2018.

Emerson Palmieri was born and raised in Brazil, but plays his international football for Italy.

He has long been linked with a return to Serie A for Juve, Inter or Napoli.

Because he would come to Italy from abroad, Emerson would also still be able to make the most of the tax cuts used to encourage growth.

It all means his wages would cost Juve circa half those of Alex Sandro.

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Juventus defence causing problems

Juventus have seen their defensive form collapse in recent weeks, as they went from five goals in 12 games to no clean sheets in seven.

The Bianconeri are currently in third place, but the battle for a top four finish is extremely tight, especially as they go head-to-head with Atalanta in fourth on Sunday.

Among the reasons for their poor results there’s the lack of defensive cohesion, although even here they struggle for consistency.

Juve conceded five goals in 12 competitive games from January 20, but in the last seven official matches they haven’t managed a single clean sheet.

During the most recent seven fixtures between Serie A and the Champions League, the Bianconeri let in nine goals.

In Serie A, the Old Lady conceded 27 goals in 30 rounds, meaning they have technically the joint best defence in the league with leaders Inter.

However, by their usual standards, it is a huge let-down.

Even Maurizio Sarri’s side had conceded only 26 goals by this stage of last season.

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