Preview: Inter vs. Chievo – The Bid for Top Spot Gets Serious
Having taken care of business at Sardinia against Cagliari last week, Inter have the oppurtunity to go top of the table all by themselves with a home win against Chievo. Kick-off on Sunday at 15:00CET.
Despite having come back with all three points from their trip to the South last week, it is undeniable that Cagliari had Luciano Spaletti’s men in a world of trouble in the first 30 minutes and save for some Samir Handanovic and Mauro Icardi heroics, the final result might have been different.
It also a fact that Inter struggle to break down well organized defenively resilient sides. And few sides are as defensively gritty as Rolando Maran’s Chievo. The Flying Donkeys from Verona have established themselves as a perennial top flight presence based on a no nonsense defense first style. Matias Vecino and Roberto Gagliardini’s absence might be a blessing in disguise since Spaletti might be thus forced to play the more creative Joao Mario and Marcelo Brozovic in their stead, allowing more room for the side to express itself in Chievo’s final third.
It is also important to remember that Chievo are a side very capable of snatching a goal on the counter-attack. In the on-loan Roberto Inglese, they possess a promising an in form striker who can more than trouble stand-in central defender and walking calamity Andrea Ranocchia. Ranocchia and Skriniar will be without the usual midfield defensive cover and as such, the full backs will probably be instructed to stay back. It is not beyond the realm of possibility to imagine Danilo D’Ambrosio playing as a hybrid central defender in a faux back three.
While it’s become a bit of a cliche to refer to each match as a season defining encounter, but recent history has taught us that the post treble Inter always crumbles when the stakes are high. If the Nerazzurri are able to overcome their nerves, self destructive tendencies and key personnel absences then Spaletti’s mental work will have far exceeded the highest expectations.
Dominating the news out of the Inter camp is the potential recovery of Matias Vecino from his injury, however even if the Uruguayan midfielder is available for selection, it will be unlikely to see him in the starting lineup. Missing the match due to yellow card accumulation will be midfielder Roberto Gagliardini and defender Joao Miranda.
Probable Inter line-up (subject to change): (4-2-3-1) Handanovic; Nagatomo, Ranocchia, Skriniar, D’Ambrosio; Valero, Brozovic; Perisic, Joao Mario, Candreva; Icardi (C)
Last Season: Inter 3 – 1 Chievo
Last 10 Head to Head: In the last ten games Inter possess a far superior record to that of Chievo’s with the Nerazzurri winning six matches to Chievo’s two wins. Chievo have not won at the San Siro since 2001.
Keep an Eye on
Andrea Ranocchia: The error prone defender has a once-in-a-blue-moon chance under Spaletti to stake his claim as a reliable central defensive backup to the Miranda-Skriniar duo. It will be interesting to see if he will finally rise to the occasion or continue his career long string of underachievements and disappointments.
Refereree: Gianpaolo Calvarese
Assistants: Carbone, Bindoni
Fourth Official: Piccinini
Additional Assistants: Guida, Ranghetti
Prediction & Authors Note
Prediction & scorers: Inter 1 – 1 Chievo with a Perisic goal for Inter.
Author’s Note: While the brilliant mental work Spaletti has done on the squad so far has been undeniable, I believe that the mental and moral “heaviness” of this match is still a bit much for the collective psyche of players to bear at this moment.