This Sunday 6 March 2016 sees Champions League chasing Inter welcome relegation threatened Palermo to the San Siro (kick-off 20:45CET).
Inter come into this game on the back of a topsy-turvy week and very much bittersweet emotionally after a 2-0 loss away at Juventus last weekend in the league before beating the Bianconeri 3-0 at the San Siro on Wednesday in the Coppa Italia semi-final second leg, however, after doing all the hard work of pulling three goals back from the first leg, the Nerazzurri lost out to the Old Lady on penalties.
Roberto Mancini got his tactics all wrong last weekend in Turin where a defensive Inter were dominated by Juve, and didn’t even have a shot on target until the 87th minute. It was a poor performance and one summed up perfectly by Inter sporting director Piero Ausilio when he criticised the Nerazzurri for a lack of “technique, determination, character and balls,” after the game.
However the second Derby d’Italia of the week was a complete turnaround from the game in Turin with Mancini deciding to have a go at Juventus with a balanced 4-3-3 formation and boy, did he get it right.
Inter dominated the 90 minutes, with Juve not having their first shot on target until extra-time. The Nerazzurri looked much more dangerous and were defensively sound on the most part despite missing first choice defensive partners Miranda and Murillo through suspension. A special mention goes to D’Ambrosio, who after his mistake in Turin which set-up Bonucci, flourished in a central defensive role in Milan.
Despite the great performance the Nerazzurri went out on penalties after Palacio’s miss but the confidence of the performance should make the players finally start to believe in themselves, especially when Inter president Erick Thohir praised them after the game. “That’s the Inter I want, a team that can fight, play with character and wear the Inter shirt with pride. Well done lads, this is the way forward,” declared Thohir to the Inter website.
With 11 games to play, Inter are fifth in the Serie A table, five points behind Fiorentina and Roma in the race to qualify for the Champions League and with them two sides going head to head this weekend, this is a must-win game for the Nerazzurri.
Palermo come into this game on the back of a 0-0 draw in Sicily against Bologna which brought to an end a two game losing streak after heavy defeats to Roma(5-0) and Torino(1-3).
Palermo’s problem this season has been continuity, mainly due to the turnover of Coaches with six so far this season. Giuseppe Iachini, who started the season with Palermo, is back in charge despite being sacked in November by Italy’s most trigger-happy president Maurizio Zamperini.
The Sicilians do have a possible future star in their ranks though after the emergence of 18 year old Neopolitan midfielder Giuseppe Pezzella, who gave a highly energetic performance in just his second appearance for Palermo last weekend. One to watch for the future. Also a boost is the return of captain and first choice goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino from injury.
Palermo sit dangerously in 17th place in the Serie A table, four points clear of an improving Frosinone in the last relegation place.
Here is the Inter team news and probable line-up as reported by La Gazzetta dello Sport at the time of writing this article:
Samir Handanovic returns in goal after being rested in midweek with Danilo D’Ambrosio moving back to his position on the right as central defender Joao Miranda returns after missing the Coppa Italia win over Juve through suspension to partner Juan Jesus. Jeison Murillo is set for the bench after picking up a minor problem in training and Yuto Nagatomo is expected to keep his place on the left.
In a possible 4-2-3-1 formation, Marcelo Brozovic should start after his performance against Juve in midweek alongside Gary Medel. Geoffrey Kondogbia, although there are question marks over the Frenchman after a head injury on Wednesday, is expected to make the bench.
In an attacking four, Rodrigo Palacio is expected to be on the right with Ivan Perisic on the left and with Adem Ljajic behind captain Mauro Icardi, who is expected to return after being rested against Juve.
Probable Inter line-up (subject to change): (4-2-3-1) Handanovic; D’Ambrosio, Miranda, Juan Jesus, Nagatomo; Brozovic, Medel; Palacio, Ljajic, Perisic; Icardi(c).
Bench: Carrizo, Berni, Murillo, Santon, Della Giovanna, Telles, Melo, Gnoukouri, Kondogbia, Biabiany, Eder, Manaj.
Inter have faced Palermo on 27 occasions at the San Siro in Serie A with the Nerazzurri leading the stats with 19 wins to Palermo’s zero wins with eight matches drawn.
In the overall Serie A records (home & away), Inter continue to lead the way with 28 wins to Palermo’s six wins with 21 of the 55 meetings drawn.
The earlier meeting between the teams this season in Sicily ended in a 1-1 draw with goals from Gilardino and Perisic.
In last season’s corresponding fixture at the San Siro on February 8 2015, Inter won 3-0 with goals from the now departed Guarin and a brace from Icardi.
Palermo haven’t won a league match since Week 21 in a 4-1 win against Udinese, since then they have drew three and lost three matches.
Player to Watch: Ivan Perisic – The Croatian has showed glimpses of what he is capable of doing this season. Inter need the winger to put in more performances like the one against Juventus in midweek.
My Prediction: Inter 2-0 Palermo
Scorers: Perisic, Ljajic
Officials: Referee: Carmine Russo Assistants: De Luca, Marrazzo
Fourth Official: Crispo Aditional Assistants: Calvarese, Di Paolo
Author’s Note: A strong performance against a struggling Palermo is exactly what Inter need to build on their new found confidence to push for Champions League qualification. Character, muscle, pride and above all a perfect attacking/defensive balance will be needed in every match now to show that the performance against Juve wasn’t a one-off occurrence.