16.05.2024 12:15 h

Off-field problems lurk

Inter Milan will officially crown themselves champions of Italy on Sunday evening when they face Lazio before being awarded the Serie A trophy in front of an adoring San Siro crowd.

Simone Inzaghi's side won the Scudetto with five matches remaining after laying waste to the rest of the league, racking up 92 points so far and humiliating local rivals AC Milan.

Inter fans have not only seen their heroes beat Milan, who trail by 18 points in second, to 20 league titles but they watched them seal the deal by winning a sixth straight local derby.

And after smashing Frosinone last week Inter will be in no mood to let their fans down before another title party in front of 75,000.

Some 200,000 people have tried to snap up places not already taken up by season ticket holders, with Inter to host a concert and DJ set on the San Siro pitch after captain and Serie A's leading scorer Lautaro Martinez holds aloft the league trophy.

Inter will be a strong bet for another title challenge next year if the club's Chinese owners Suning complete a loan agreement to pay off a debt which has been hanging around the club's neck all season.

Investment fund Oaktree are due around 375-380 million euros ($407-$413) by Monday and Inter should pay that off, but only by borrowing more money from another US fund Pimco.

Inter are yet to announce funding of 430 million euros which they need to settle their debt with Oaktree -- who will take control of the club if they do not receive payment -- and agree a series of contract renewals.

Those include Martinez, Italy midfielder Nicolo Barella and Inzaghi, who is set to extend his current deal by two years to 2027.

Inter will effectively kick the can down the road with another reported three-year loan with even higher interest than the 12 percent negotiated with Oaktree.

On the pitch, Inzaghi looks set to pick his strongest team for Lazio, who still have an outside chance of reaching the Champions League despite a bizarre season which has featured managerial, fan and player unrest.

With two rounds of fixtures remaining Igor Tudor's side are unlikely to finish fifth as they trail losing Italian cup finalists Atalanta, who have a game in hand, by four points.

However Lazio are only a point behind Roma and sixth place could yet yield a Champions League spot, if Atalanta win the Europa League and finish fifth.

However, if Atalanta finish in the top four sixth would no longer bring a place in Europe's top club competition, even if Gian Piero Gasperini's side beat Bayer Leverkusen in Dublin next week.

And that is a real possibility as Atalanta head into their Saturday evening clash at Lecce four points behind Juventus and Bologna, who sit fourth and third respectively and are separated by goal difference.

Juve, fresh from beating Atalanta at the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday night, have got 15 points from their last 15 league matches and on Monday night are at Bologna, who are still on a high after a first qualification for the modern Champions League sparked wild celebrations in the northern Italian city.

Midfielder Fagioli could make his first Juve appearance since October after serving his seven-month ban for gambling on football matches.

Juve youth product Fagioli, who has one cap for Italy, was suspended in October for gambling on football matches after agreeing a plea-bargain with the Italian Football Federation's disciplinary tribunal.

The 23-year-old had been a rising star of Italian football before his ban, which came during a betting scandal which also swept up Newcastle United midfielder Sandro Tonali.