Still unbeaten Inter return to the San Siro to host the other black and white Serie A side in a bid to continue topping the league table. Match on Saturday at 1500 CET.
Inter’s equal parts cringeworthy and virally brilliant Christmas celebratory campaign comes to head with the Nerazzurri faithful congregating at the Meazza to celebrate the festive season with an en masse rendition of what’s sure to become a cult anthem “Inter Bells”. But it won’t be all fun and games at the San Siro on Saturday, there will still be the minor matter of maintaining the lead at the top of the league table to contend with as the somewhat resurgent Udinese will look to spoil the Inter festivities.
Since ending Luigi Delneri’s disappointing tenure prematurely and bringing in ex-Milanista Massimo Oddo, the Zebretti have been on a three win streak (albeit against Crotone, Benevento and Perguia in the Cup) and will hope to ride this wave of positivity by taking away points from the hosts and league leaders. Injuries to defenders Samir and Gabriele Angella mean that Oddo will have to dip into his second choice pool of central defenders. Having just seen how Juventus, by neutralizing both Antonio Candreva and Ivan Perisic, managed to render almost all Inter attempts at mounting comprehensive attacks futile, Oddo will probably have his midfielders and defenders double up on the flanks to limit the Nerazzurri wide threat.
Should Luciano Spaletti find his attempts to find the visitors’ goal ineffective, expect him to introduce Marcelo Brozovic who has been Inter’s most effective player at building attacks centrally. There are some reports in Italian media that Brozovic may actually start, but that is somewhat unlikely as Spaletti will probably want to give his preferred midfield trio of Borja Valero, Roberto Gagliardini and Matias Vecino the opportunity to continue to grow as a unit prior to winter break.
In a match where Inter are largely expected to come out as victors, their biggest enemy will be their own mentality. As league leader and potenital scudetto contender, Inter cannot afford to treat every match as a cup final regardless of opposition.
Spaletti is spoilt for choice, all players are available for selection despite reports of Joao Mario succumbing to another bout of tonsillitis.
Probable Inter line-up (subject to change): (4-2-3-1) Handanovic; Santon, Miranda, Skriniar, D’Ambrosio; Gagliardini, Vecino; Perisic, Valero, Candreva; Icardi (C)
Last Season: Inter 5 – 2 Udinese
Last 10 Head to Head: Inter’s recent record against the side from Udine has been quite impressive, having beating the visitors on twice as many occasions. Perhaps more tellingly is the fact that of Inter’s six wins, five have been in the last five matches.
Keep an Eye on
Antonio Candreva: Ir is quickly becoming apparent that despite his many frustrating missed crosses, there is no more important a component in building Inter’s attacks than the Italian winger. Against Juventus, when Kwadoh Asamoah was basically his assigned personal guard, Inter looked toothless and devoid of ideas going forward, and again against minnows Pordenone, with the Candyman on the bench, all Inter attacks were destined to go nowhere.
Refereree: Maurizio Mariani
Assistants: Fiorito, Di Iiorio
Fourth Official: Piccinini
Additional Assistants: Massa, Peretti
Prediction & Authors Note
Prediction & scorers: Inter 2 – 0 Udinese with an Icardi breaking the deadlock and Candreva finally getting the second.
Author’s Note: Despite all signs pointing to the fact that this should be a straighforward win, it is matches like these, where the opposition may be underestimated that the highest risk of failure may manifest itself. that being said, Spaletti has shown himself to be anything but the type of manager who may for even the briefest of moments allow his players to approach any match casually.