Serie A Betting: Inter and Conte's future could rest on final day test of nerve

Former Juventus and Chelsea coach Antonio Conte
The final weekend of Serie A promises to be tense, but Inter hope to be able to look forward to Champions League football next season - with Antonio Conte

The Champions League beckons again for the Nerazzurri - unless they have another of their nightmare moments at home, writes Andy Brassell...

"Inter have slipped up on a whole host of occasions at San Siro this season, from the shock early season defeat to promoted Parma to failing to get the final Champions League group match home win against PSV that would have taken them into the last 16 at eventual finalists Tottenham’s expense."

Make no mistake about it, FC Internazionale shouldn't be in this position. Some teams would relish the opportunity to go into the final game of a season with Champions League qualification in their own hands. It's the point at which Inter actually sealed a top four place, in dramatic fashion, last season. They should, however, have sealed this a while back.

Luciano Spalletti and company, then, might well face their final day challenge with more than a modicum of trepidation, even if the sums are simple. If they win on Sunday against lowly Empoli, they'll go back into the Champions League for the second straight season after six years spent outside it. If they don't, they leave themselves open to a steal - from city rivals Milan, of all teams.

San Siro slip-ups

Inter, it must be said, have looked healthier. They come into this having won just one of the last five and having missed a clutch of opportunities to make themselves safe in the last month-and-a-half or so, beginning with the home defeat to Lazio at the end of March. That the club from the capital - who they beat to the punch on last season's final day in what was essentially a Champions League eliminator in Rome, remember - have since faded from the picture makes the loss even more frustrating in retrospect.

It doesn't necessarily stand alone, though. Spalletti's team have slipped up on a whole host of occasions at San Siro this season, from the shock early season defeat to promoted Parma to being rolled over by old boy Sinisa Mihajlovic's Bologna, who looked doomed at the time. In Europe, Inter failed to get the final Champions League group match home win against PSV that would have taken them into the last 16 at eventual finalists Tottenham's expense, and then were played off their own pitch by Eintracht Frankfurt on the way out of the Europa League.

Empoli scramble towards great escape

Inter remain favourites to take Sunday's game at 1.434/9 but visiting Empoli 87/1 have propelled themselves to within view of safety with an unprecedented run of three straight wins. The visitors need to win to make sure and have the wind at their backs. Yet while the Tuscan team's recent resurgence is impressive - and they swept away high-flying Torino with considerable gusto last week - it's Inter's foibles that will come under the microscope.

Making the Champions League or not could have real implications for Inter's future too. Having just got free of their FFP settlement terms with UEFA, the club should be able to build from here, and are widely expected to appoint former Juventus and Chelsea boss Antonio Conte to lead them forward into next season. With Juve yet to name a successor to Massimiliano Allegri, Conte will hope to mount a domestic as well a continental challenge to his old club if he takes charge, having won the title in his first season in Turin as well his during his debut term in the Premier League.

Crucial for future with Conte

There's just one catch, of course - the Champions League. Not only would missing out on a return to the top table in Europe hurt them in terms of transfer budget (and Spalletti will have to be paid off, having extended his contract to 2021 back in autumn), but it might even give Conte cause for pause, with the Champions League being the main arena in which he has yet to prove himself as a coach.

The stakes are high, then, for Inter this weekend. Nerazzurri fans must simply hope that their home turf jitters are a thing of the past.

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