Straight from the dark heart of Italy
Jose Mourinho will be looking to lock up the title race as securely as his home this evening.
Police have arrested four Macedonians who were in possession of details of the Inter coach’s abodes in Milan and out at Lake Como.
Reportedly they also had photographs of one of the most-well known faces in Italy, just in case they mixed up which luxury villa they were burgling and ended up in George Clooney’s pile instead.
No doubt Jose has already beefed up the alarms at home whilst a win at Parma will provide the added security of an 11-point gap at the top of the table.
No other team in Europe’s major leagues have such an iron grip on a title race - even Barcelona are only five points clear.
Needless to say, the Nerazzurri have the most potent attack and meanest defence, which is either a blessing or a potential weakness heading into the most important couple of weeks of the season.
Any prize fighter knows that a punchbag is all well and fine, but to hone the competitive edge ahead of a big bout you need a couple of quality sparring partners.
Two years ago, Roberto Mancini’s side were 11 points clear after 23 games but the coach’s public meltdown after defeat to Liverpool saw the side shamble home in the end by a mere three points.
Would a setback against Chelsea lead to a similar collapse this time around?
Mourinho’s new model is a lot sturdier than the one that exited tamely to Manchester United at the same stage of the competition last year.
Samuel Eto’o and Wesley Sneijder have added that bit of flair that previously only Zlatan Ibrahimovic could produce.
But it is the most recent arrival that has taken the team to another level on the home front anyway.
Goran Pandev spent the first half of the season embroiled in a contract dispute with Lazio, but the Macedonian stood up to the hard-nosed Claudio Lotito and won his case to become a free agent.
No sooner than he was back at the club that first brought him to Italy than the striker was making up for lost time – and made light of Eto’o being at the Africa Cup of Nations.
He set up Milito for the first goal in the derby before grabbing the second with a curling free-kick - and since then has added a further two goals.
However, it was on Sunday that the 26-year-old came into his own when he took over the Sneijder role behind Eto’o and Milito.
He scored again as well as setting up Eto’o at the end of slick passing move on the edge of the area.
The Dutchman will be thinking twice about his previously untouchable position - although if Inter do climb into double digits clear then Mourinho will be able to play all four knowing that the title is as safe as houses.
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