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© AP, Jan 19, 2012

Inter full of optimism after emotional derby win


ROME(AP) Inter Milan is full of optimism following an emotional derby win over AC Milan that is helping the club forget its dismal start to the season.

With six consecutive victories, the Nerazzurri have climbed from 15 points behind to trail Serie A leader Juventus by six points approaching the season's midpoint.

Inter remains at the San Siro this weekend to face fourth-place Lazio, the squad that is only one point above it in the table.

``This is a squad that should be fighting for the title,'' Inter manager Claudio Ranieri said. ``We've had an incredible run but we still haven't done anything. We've gotten back in the (Europa League) zone but we've got to get back in the Champions League places - because that's where Inter belongs. We're placing one brick at a time.''

Speculation that Inter might sign Carlos Tevez from Manchester City has waned recently, since word that the Argentina international is close to a deal with Paris Saint-Germain.

``We've found a nice balance, and this kid who hasn't played for a long time, how much could he offer and how much could he take away?'' Ranieri said.

Inter began the season by failing to win its opening three matches, leading the club to replace Gian Piero Gasperini with Ranieri, although the real problem appeared to be Samuel Eto'o's sudden departure to Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala in August.

Eto'o led Inter with 37 goals in all competitions last season.

After a disappointing season and a half, Diego Milito finally appears to have rediscovered the goalscoring touch that helped lead Inter to an unprecedented treble in 2010.

Milito's 54th-minute goal against Milan last weekend was his fourth in three games.

Also, key playmaker Wesley Sneijder has returned after missing more than two months with a right leg muscle injury.

``When I arrived everything was going wrong, but I've re-instilled in everyone the desire to battle and show that they're not finished,'' Ranieri said. ``I've put everyone back into their natural positions and working with these guys is a real pleasure.''

While Inter was hosting Genoa on Thursday for a spot in the Italian Cup quarterfinals, it's real focus now is on Lazio, which exceeded expectations in the first half of the season but then was routed 4-0 by Siena in its first match after the holiday break.

Lazio got back on track with a 2-0 win over Atalanta last weekend with an opening goal from Brazilian playmaker Hernanes and then Miroslav Klose's 10th league score of the season in stoppage time.

``After the vacation it's not unexpected to have a blackout because you're not used to certain rhythms,'' said Lazio coach Edy Reja, the oldest manager in the league at 66. ``Let's hope that letdown we had is over now. ... We're going to Milan to win.''

Juventus, which leads Milan by one point, visits Atalanta, while Milan plays at last-place Novara in a rematch of an Italian Cup game won 2-1 by the Rossoneri in extra time on Wednesday.

``We lost but we're still five points in front of Inter,'' Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic said. ``There are still a lot of matches remaining, so that game wasn't decisive.''

Third-place Udinese, which is three points behind, hosts Catania.

Also this weekend, it's: Cagliari vs. Fiorentina; Roma vs. Cesena; Bologna vs. Parma; Lecce vs. Chievo Verona; Palermo vs. Genoa; and Siena vs. Napoli.


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