Heading into this encounter, neither side picked up three points in their previous fixtures however one side was content whilst the other was embarrassed. Inter drew at home to title chasing Napoli whilst Sampdoria got utterly smashed by relegation battlers, Crotone. So, the Nerazzurri should come into this one with confidence after their display whilst Samp fans knew that their team would either respond to their humiliation by putting in a real shift or that defeat would’ve completely knocked their confidence causing a rollover.
Inter boss Luciano Spalletti kept his line-up exactly the same which no one could argue was the wrong decision even prior to kick-off after the performance that XI put in last week. Tactically, the manager would allow his team to be the ones in control contrary to last weekend when Napoli came to town since this is a game in which the ball can be kept and play could be dominated as the opposition are inferior on the balance on play but football is football so of course, Spalletti would be aware of the threats his opponents may cause.
As for the home side, Marco Giampaolo made three changes from the humiliating defeat a week ago as Bereszyński, Praet and Zapata replaced Sala, Linetty and Caprari respectively. The system remained the same as the Genoa based outfit looked to bounce straight back with a win at home to continue their quest for European football for the first time since the 2015/16 season after they were knocked out against Serbian club, Vojvodina in the Europa League Third Qualifying Round.
Giampaolo’s men started off well, retaining possession and making Inter chase the ball however the away side set up in exactly the same way as when they played Napoli whenever they were defending. This set up was a flat 4-4-2 with Rafinha staying close to Torreira (Jorginho last week) who Sampdoria want on the ball as often as possible. Not only that, the system didn’t allow the blucerchiati’s other midfielders to find space which forced them to go backwards or risk a pass.
A common theme, even in the first twelve minutes of the match was the fact that one: Sampdoria tried to play out from every goal kick and two: their front three would stay right up against Inter’s back four leaving a huge gap between themselves and their midfield. Seemingly, the reason for this is the hope that Sampdoria are able to successfully play out from the back with a short pass or dink and then break the line of midfield quickly to allow a 3v4 fast attack with players then joining the attack. Problem was, they simply couldn’t break the first or second lines of defence which is credit to Spalletti and his system.
After a dominant opening 25 minutes from Inter, they eventually opened the scoring after missing one or two really good chances before the goal. With Samp playing a narrow style, this basically told Cancelo and D’Ambrosio that they would have the space to attack since the wings consisted of 2v1’s in favour of the away side. The goal itself was a nice one but you could see that the men in blue were just not fully switched on from the get go. Cancelo is allowed to whip a ball in with Perišić drifting into space unmarked and then he topped it off with a superb finish. 0-1 Inter!
After Inter got their second with captain Mauro Icardi scoring his 100th Serie A goal against none other than his former side, you could see that Sampdoria didn’t have the belief that they could actually get back into the game. One major problem I noticed with the system they had was the fact Praet was rarely in position to defend which just meant Cancelo and Candreva could have a field day against Murru at LB with Torriera being forced to try to cover him constantly. Also, Gastón Ramírez (who was clearly instructed to stay with the strikers instead of dropping in to help the midfield) was not used correctly as his role allowed Inter to build up the play with ease.
Inter all but sealed the game with a third but things could’ve been different had Zapata not hit the post right after they conceded. A let off for Inter who clearly fell asleep but that kicked them back into gear as they went up the other end to get a fourth with Mauro Icardi netting a 14-minute hattrick and sealing the victory for his side. A great half for the Nerazzurri and arguably their best of the season so far.
To the surprise of most, Sampdoria came out for the 2nd half in the same shape and system which saw them concede 4 goals and all but lose the game. All three changes were made before the 55th minute however things remained the same and in fact, if it wasn’t for the referee being a tad lenient, substitute Gianluca Caprari could have seen red for a nasty challenge on Rafinha.
So, since they kept playing the way they were, Spalletti didn’t change much at all, if anything. The team remained tight and compact whilst in the defensive phase not allowing Sampdoria’s midfield to pick up the ball and whenever the ball was won back, the team would make the pitch as big as possible to force the narrowness of their opponents to widen thus creating gaps.
The match really began to slow down in the second half with both sides moving the ball relatively slowly and not applying much pressure at all. Tactically, Spalletti simply kept it the same since there was no reason to change. Although Samp went with the three-up front, the fact no pressure was being applied just led to it not being effective since Inter moved the ball from side to side with relative ease since the home side continued to stay narrow. They did carve out one or two decent opportunities down their left-hand side but nothing that would worry the boss at this point.
Borja Valero and Matías Vecino entered the action for the final 15 or so minutes as Spalletti tried to inject some fresh legs into the play to add some life to the game since it was incredibly stale. Borja pressed and put players under pressure whilst Vecino held off any attacks alongside Gagliardini who was yet again, very good. The game just crept to an end with neither side really trying too hard.
We went from more than likely the most entertaining half of football this season to the most boring in a single game. It was totally expected since we were leading 0-4 at the break and had no need to continue pushing men forward but even still, we could’ve scored one or two more for sure with Candreva missing a clear-cut chance whilst João Cancelo set up Éder who had his shot cleared off the line but it was called back for offside. Mauro got his 100th Serie A goal against his former side whilst also becoming the 6th youngest player to reach the incredible milestone so a great day all around. Overall, we were superb and it was a breath of fresh air to see the team play like this again after two months of dreadful displays. All we need to do now is push on for these final 10 fixtures and cement our place in the UEFA Champions League for next season. We go back home next week to play Hellas Verona in another must win game, see you then!