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Soccer: Inter risk first Euro exclusion in 14 years

Giants five points from Europa League qualification zone

Soccer: Inter risk first Euro exclusion in 14 years

(By Paul Virgo) Rome, May 7 - Inter Milan are in danger of missing out on European action for the first time in 14 years next season in another sign of how far they have declined since winning a Champions League-Serie A-Italian Cup treble in 2010. With three games to go, Andrea Stramaccioni's side are in eighth place, five points behind AS Roma, who at the moment qualify for the last of Italy's slots in the continent's secondary club competition, the Europa League. Another Europa League place may become available if Roma or seventh-placed Lazio finish in the top five, as those two teams will do battle in the Italian Cup final and the winner will qualify automatically for the competition. But even a top-six finish looks unlikely for Inter given their current form - they have won just two of their last 11 Serie A games. Stramaccioni had no experience of playing top-level soccer, never mind coaching a Serie A club, when he was promoted from his role as head of Inter's academy side after Claudio Ranieri was sacked last year. His job was to give a young squad of players a new sense of identity and playing style after Inter gradually offloaded many of the veterans of the treble-winning team. So far he has failed, although the wretched luck Inter have had with injuries, including serious ones to important players such as captain Javier Zanetti and fellow Argentine Diego Milito, the top scorer of the treble season, has been a big factor. "We know what happened this year, we're angry and sad but we've never looked for excuses or shied away," Stramaccioni told a news conference before Wednesday's home match against Lazio. "We've taken the flak and we're obviously angry that we weren't able to reach our objectives. "When I hear that Lazio, for example, have struggled in the absense of just one striker, (Germany's Miroslav) Klose, I have to think about all the absences we've had to contend with. "We want to show people that our injury crisis hasn't drained our motivation". Some media reports say 37-year-old Stramaccioni may be ditched next season, with former Roma coach Zdnedek Zeman and Napoli boss Walter Mazzarri named as possible replacements. But Inter Chairman Massimo Moratti has said in public at least that he will give Stramaccioni another chance to prove his worth, given the extenuating circumstances of the injuries. Milito, who has been out since February with a cruciate-ligament injury in his knee, said the team are behind their current boss. "I hope Stramaccioni is the right man to get us back winning," Milito told Sky television. "We've always been very close to him, he's obviously come into a tough situation this year. If he's still Inter coach next season we'll have a great campaign". Stramaccioni is not the only one in the firing line at Inter. The failure of some new arrivals to shine, such as 19-year-old Croatian midfielder Mateo Kovacic, Inter's big signing of the January transfer window, has also put pressure on sporting director Marco Branca. The last time Inter did not take part in European competition was in the 1999-2000 campaign after they lost to Bologna in a playoff to take part in the UEFA Cup.

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