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There are still three Italian teams involved in the 2023-24 UEFA Champions League action. After AC Milan were knocked out in the group stage phase and will play the second leg of the Europa League's play-off this Thursday against Rennes (3-0 in the first leg), Inter and Napoli will face Atletico de Madrid and FC Barcelona for two of the most exciting matchups of the tournament. Lazio, on the other hand, surprisingly won the first leg of the round of 16 clash against Bayern Munich last week at the Stadio Olimpico and can now dream of qualifying for the quarterfinals. Let's take a closer look at the three Italian teams: 

Inter are among the favorites 

The side coached by Simone Inzaghi had an incredible Champions League season last campaign when they made the final, losing to Manchester City after beating Porto, Benfica and city rivals AC Milan. This season, Inter are flying and despite the Coppa Italia elimination against Bologna, they already won the Supercoppa Italiana and are currently leading the Serie A table with a nine-point advantage on Juventus, with also one game in hand. Inter are dominating the league and want to win the title as soon as possible, but they will also try to make another exciting European campaign and they have the potential to make it happen. Inter are playing great football and the results (59 goals scored and only 12 conceded in 24 Serie A games) speak volumes, but they did end up second in the UCL group stage behind Real Sociedad. 

Inter will have to face Spanish side Atletico de Madrid in the round of 16 but the feeling is that after what happened last season, Inzaghi's team are much more aware of their potential and can dream to become one of the contenders for the final win. After Bayern's defeat, and also looking at the teams around Europe, only Manchester City and Real Madrid have more chances to win the competition. However, we know how the Champions League is challenging and always gives us a lot of surprises, so Inter can have a chance but of course need to knock out Atletico first. 

Do Napoli even have a chance?

This has been one of the most disappointing seasons for Napoli of the last decade. Not only because of the poor results but mainly because it comes the season after the Azzurri managed to win their first Serie A title in more than 30 years, the first one since the Diego Armando Maradona era. After Luciano Spalletti's departure in the summer of 2023, Napoli's owner decided to appoint former Al-Nassr coach Rudi Garcia, but things didn't work well and the Frenchman was sacked last November, with Walter Mazzarri taking the role as caretaker manager.  With Mazzarri, things went even worse. In 17 games, Napoli only had six wins under Mazzarri and only scored 16 goals since he was appointed. Also, in nine of these games Napoli failed to score and the club is currently ninth in the table, nine points behind the top four. For these reasons, on Monday Napoli announced the departure of Mazzarri and the appointment of Francesco Calzona until the end of the season. Calzona was the assistant coach of both Maurizio Sarri and Luciano Spalletti at Napoli before starting his coaching career in 2022 when he became the manager of the Slovakian national team. 

On the plus side, Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen will finally be back this week after losing the 2024 AFCON final against Ivory Coast last week, and Napoli expect him to drive the team in the upcoming games after he was not called against Genoa. The feeling is that the club is already planning for next season, but it's too early to think about it, because the end of the season is not around the corner yet. Napoli have to fight to finish in the top four and will also try to go through in the Champions League knockout phase, as FC Barcelona are not in much better shape, but Napoli don't have many chances to make it happen.   

Lazio are the outsiders 

The team coached by Maurizio Sarri didn't have many chances on paper against Bayern Munich, but Lazio won 1-0 in the first leg at the Stadio Olimpico and opened new scenarios and are now well positioned to make the miracle happen in two weeks at the Allianz Arena in Munich. However, the Biancocelesti are not having their best season as they are currently eight points behind the top four and also lost this Sunday in a key clash against Bologna in Rome. 

Lazio have real chances to qualify for the quarterfinals, but mainly because the German giants are going through a difficult moment as they only won two games in the last five in all competitions and the position of coach Thomas Tuchel is now in danger. If things don't improve in the upcoming weeks, Sarri's team have a big opportunity to qualify for the quarters for the first time since 1999-2000, when they also won their last Serie A title.