Three talking points from Inter 2-2 Cagliari ahead of Serie A title decider with Milan


Jakub Jankto of Cagliari glares at Claudio Ranieri Head coach of Cagliari after being substituted after 28 minutes during the Serie A TIM match between FC Internazionale and Cagliari - Serie A TIM at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on April 14, 2024 in Milan, Italy. 

Inter were held to a 2-2 draw by a resurgent Cagliari side on Sunday evening, but the Nerazzurri are still able to win the 2023-24 Serie A title if they beat rivals Milan away at San Siro next weekend. Here are three talking points from Sunday’s stalemate between Simone Inzaghi and Claudio Ranieri’s sides: 

No Lautaro, no party? 

Inter had to make do without the suspended Lautaro Martinez for Sunday’s Serie A meeting with Cagliari after the Argentine picked up his fifth yellow card of the season. His place in Inzaghi’s starting line-up was taken by the experienced Alexis Sanchez, who made the most of his rare opportunity as a starter. 

And, especially in the first half, he and striker partner Marcus Thuram did not look particularly burdened by the absence of the Serie A top scorer. The two combined neatly for Inter’s opener and Sanchez made plenty of intelligent runs and had plenty of neat touches in an overall solid display. 

However, when the going got tough, and when Inter needed a third with the scores at 2-2, Inter lacked that much-needed cutting edge in attack. Granted, Sanchez had come off with the scores at 2-1, but his replacement, Marko Arnautovic, did not look up to the task with 20-ish minutes left to play. 

At 35 years of age, and with several niggling injuries in recent seasons, the Chilean was never expected to last the full 90, and perhaps in his prime he could have made a difference in the final stages. 

However, times have changed and with the combination of Arnautovic and Thuram, Inter looked a tad nervy in front of goal towards the end of proceedings. Inzaghi will surely be grateful that Lautaro Martinez is back for next week’s derby.  

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Experience pays off

Of Inter’s starting XI, some of the most impressive performances came courtesy of Inzaghi’s experienced midfield generals in Hakan Calhanoglu and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. 

The Turkish international protected his 100% record from the spot while with Inter to set the scores at 2-1, and his overall performance proved why he is considered as one of the best deep-lying playmakers that European football currently has to offer. 

At 30 years of age, and preparing to face his old club for a chance of finally winning the Serie A title next week, Calhanoglu still has an important role to play for Inzaghi for several seasons to come. 

The same could still be said for Mkhitaryan, who is still churning out impressive and reliable performances on a weekly basis at the age of 35. 

He has a contract until the summer of 2026, and it is hard to see anybody coming in and replacing him in the starting line-up in the next few months. He and his partners, including Nicolo Barella, will have a tough job to do against Milan next week, but with their balance and experience, it is hard to find flaws in what has been a fantastic midfield trio over the course of the 2023-24 campaign. 

Dumfries heir patiently waiting

Though the final exchanges ended in disappointment for Inter, the silver lining was the performance of January acquisition Tajon Buchanan. 

He was introduced with just a handful of minutes left to play of regular time, and was deployed in a slightly-less familiar position on the left-hand side, but he showed plenty of hunger to get on the ball and was always trying to make things happen for Inter in the final minutes. 

The 25-year-old has plenty of pace in his locker and showed that he has some tidy touches to go with it on Sunday evening. He has had to remain patient for opportunities since joining from Club Brugge midway through the 2023-24 season; In fact the Cagliari game was only the fifth Serie A appearance of his career. 

However, after waiting in the wings and training with the likely Scudetto winners on a daily basis, Buchanan will be raring to go come the start of the 2024-25 campaign, and Inter have their heir to Denzel Dumfries already lined up should the Dutchman leave for the Premier League this summer. 


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