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Italian soccer on verge of comeback
by Paul Kennedy, March 13th, 2012 1:27AM

TAGS:  italy, uefa champions league


[UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] Italian soccer, which has had no more than one team in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League since 2007, could have as many as three teams in this year's final eight. AC Milan is already through to the quarterfinals, and Inter Milan and Napoli could win their series this week.

Champions League on TV
FOX SOCCER: Inter Milan-Marseille
FOX SOCCER: Chelsea-Napoli
(All broadcasts begin at 3:30 p.m. ET.)

Italian soccer's form in Europe had dropped so low that it will lose its fourth spot in the Champions League to Germany next season.

But AC Milan, the Serie A champion, held off a furious second-leg comeback by Arsenal to win the series 4-3.

Inter Milan, winner of the Champions League only two years ago when it won a rare triple, trails Marseille, 1-0, heading into Tuesday's second leg at the San Siro.

Inter would normally be favored, but its recent form has been terrible -- it won its first match in 10 games in all competitions Friday when it beat Chievo Verona, 2-0, on two late goals -- and it has lost every game it has played against OM in the Champions League.

Inter is seventh in Serie A and in danger of falling out of the Champions League next season. Claudio Ranieri could become the second Inter coach of the season to be fired. Gian Piero Gasperini lasted only five games before he was dumped last fall.

This is Napoli's first season in the Champions League, but it has one of the best attacks in the competition.

Uruguayan Edinson Cavani and Argentine Ezequiel Lavezzi combined for all three goals in the first leg to give Napoli a 3-1 lead over Chelsea heading into Wednesday's second leg in London.

Chelsea has changed managers since the first leg, replacing Portuguese Andre Villas-Boas with Italian Roberto Di Matteo. If the Blues don't overcome the first-leg deficit, it would leave the English Premier League without a team in the final eight for the first time in 16 years.

The EPL had three teams in the final eight in 2011, two in 2010 and four in 2008 and 2009.

1 comment
  1. Barry Thomas
    commented on: March 13, 2012 at 2:48 p.m.
    Too simplistic. I don't buy Paul's basic premise, although Italian footbal may be making a comeback. But just because one (or three) teams do well inthe UCL doesn't necessarily reflect on its parent league as a whole. Does that mean that the EPL has gotten demonstrably weaker in the last five years because it is likely to have zero teams in the quarterfinals? If APOEL goes on to the semis without the Manchester teams (who lead the EPL by some margin) making the round of 16, does that mean that Cypriot footbal is superior to English footbal?

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