Preview: Inter vs Lazio – An Ominous End To The Year
With two league losses in a row (and a third derby coppa loss for good measure) Inter return to the San Siro with their tails between their legs hoping to end the year on a high. Match on Saturday at 18:00CET
While Inter’s current state cannot be called a crisis just yet, yet the four match winless streak in all competitions (including three straight losses) is hardly the way to end the year on a good note. Teams seem to have managed to figure out Luciano Spaletti’s attacking means and how to keep the Nerazzurri threat at bay. Case in point: it has been four matches since the Nerazzurri have found the back of the net. Joao Cancelo’s performance against Milan midweek will provide some hope that the right flank may yet bear some attacking fruit, however one cannot help but feel that the solution to Inter’s attacking woes lies in a radical solution through the middle rather than in a simple improvement out wide.
Lazio are also going through a less-than-optimal run of form with just one win in the last three matches, one of which included a home loss against the under-performing Torino. However, despite their medoicre run of form, Lazio have not lost their scoring touch; the last time the Biancocelesti have been unable to score was all the way back in August. Simone Inzaghi’s side always look to boss the midfield and unlock their opponents’ defences through main attacking threats Milinkovic-Savic and Ciro Immobile. Both of whom will test the makeshift Inter defense to the limits of its abilities.
Just three weeks ago, one would have viewed this match as a tough but very winnable affair for the home side, but the reality today is that no Inter supporter will look to this match with a modicum of optimism. It seems that once again, Inter’s biggest opponent is their own fragile mentality, and while no single match will ultimately define a season, it seems that should Spaletti be able to pull his side up from this moment of despair, it will be his biggest achievement come May of 2018.
Spaletti is facing a bit of a defensive crisis with injuerues to two of his standout defensive platers, Joao Mario and Danilo D’Ambrosio. Joao Cancelo, who performed in the midweek cup loss, will slot in for D’Ambrosio, while the calamitous Andrea Ranocchia will fill in for Miranda. The left-flank will also be problematic where one of the two underperforming Yuto Nagatomo or Davide Santon will be expected to start.
Probable Inter line-up (subject to change): (4-2-3-1) Handanovic; Santon, Ranocchia, Skriniar, Cancelo; Gagliardini, Vecino; Perisic, Valero, Candreva; Icardi (C)
Last Season: Inter 3 – 0 Lazio
Last 10 Head to Head: The two side’s head to head is almost perfectly balanced; Lazio slightly edge Inter out with five wins to the Nerazzurri’s four. Interestingly, one has to go all the way back to 2005 to find a goal-less draw between the sides.
Keep an Eye on
Borja Valero: As opponents quickly learn how to shut out Spaletti’s attacking threats by closing down wide men Ivan Perisic and Antonio Candreva, the role of orchestrating attacks through the middle will become more and more important. While the Spanish veteran is no clear trequartista, his ability to find effective passes from a deep lying midfield position will be fundamental in giving the Nerazzurri a bit of variety when going forward.
Refereree: Gianluca Rocchi
Assistants: Di Liberatore, Tasso
Fourth Official: Abisso
Additional Assistants: Damato, Schenone
Prediction & Authors Note
Prediction & scorers: Inter 2 – 1 Lazio Eder and Vecino on the scoresheet.
Author’s Note: While Inter’s history when facing Lazio in games that matter is checkered to say the least, Spaletti has shown that his side fare better when facing stronger rather than weaker opposition. moreover, if there was a fixture in which one can exoricse the demons of the three match slump this would be it.