This Saturday night sees Inter take on Napoli at the San Siro in what is a must-win match for both sides in their respective campaigns (kick-off 20:45 CET).
Inter come into this game on the back of a 0-1 win away at Frosinone last weekend which broke a run of six away matches without a win.
It was a sluggish performance from the Nerazzurri but Mauro Icardi popped up to score his 50th goal in his 100th Inter appearance with his only shot on goal in the game.
Frosinone will feel hard done by as they hit the woodwork three times but as the saying goes ‘when you’re down at the bottom, those bits of luck don’t go for you’.
The international break looks to have come at a bad time for Inter. Before the break the Nerazzurri where starting to build a head of steam on the back of a 3-0 win over Juventus in the Coppa Italia with much improved performances after that match against Palermo, Bologna and Roma.
But since returning their performances have dropped again with a loss at San Siro against Torino and another below par performance at Frosinone, however at this stage of the season results are more important.
After last weekend’s win, Inter have moved up to fourth place in the standings. With Fiorentina’s loss to Empoli and Roma drawing at home to Bologna the gap to the Giallorossi has been cut to six points with six games remaining in the Champions League qualification race.
Napoli come into this match on the back of a routine 3-0 home win against bottom of the table Hellas Verona last weekend.
The Partenopei also suffered after the international break when they imploded away to Udinese in a 3-1 loss with this season’s Capocannoniere Gonzalo Higuain sent off. The Argentine who also pushed the referee has seen his behaviour rewarded with a four match suspension which the club are currently appealing.
It’s a good thing for Inter that Higuain will be missing as the 28-year-old has scored five goals against the Nerazzurri in seven appearances.
After Napoli’s win against Hellas last weekend, the Partenopei sit in second place, six points behind league leaders Juventus and six points ahead of third place Roma.
This is a classic six-pointer with Napoli looking to keep up their chase on Juve as well as fending off Roma in third while Inter will be looking to try to cut the gap to the Giallorossi.
There will also be a little spice to this encounter as Roberto Mancini will come up against Maurizio Sarri for the first time since both where involved in a public spat after Inter’s win against the Vesuviani in the Coppa Italia back in January.
The pair clashed on the touchline with Mancini calling for Sarri to be suspended for using homophobic slurs towards him, however the 51-year-old has played down the row this week, declaring that he “will shake Sarri’s hand,” when speaking in an interview to Inter Channel.
Here is the Inter team news and probable line-up as reported by La Gazzetta dello Sport at the time of writing this article:
The main news is that Roberto Mancini should have a full squad to choose from with the returns of Joao Miranda and Yuto Nagatomo after suspensions. The Inter Coach could also mirror the 4-3-3 formation used by their Neapolitan opponents.
Samir Handanovic starts in goal after his first clean sheet since Week 23 with Danilo D’Ambrosio expected to start at right back. In central defence Miranda is expected to partner Jeison Murillo with the returning Nagatomo favoured over Alex Telles at left back.
In a midfield three Gary Medel should start in a double-pivot alongside Geoffrey Kondogbia with Marcelo Brozovic in a slightly more advanced position.
In a front three Rodrigo Palacio is favoured on the right with Ivan Perisic on the left behind Mauro Icardi in the central striking role.
Probable Inter line-up (subject to change): (4-3-3) Handanovic; D’Ambrosio, Miranda, Murillo, Nagatomo; Medel, Kondogbia, Brozovic; Palacio, Icardi (C), Perisic
Bench: Carrizo, Berni, Santon, Juan Jesus, Telles, Gnoukouri, Melo, Biabiany, Jovetic, Ljajic, Eder, Manaj
Inter have faced Napoli at the San Siro in Serie A on 69 occasions with the Nerazzurri winning 45 times to the Partenopei’s eight victories with 16 matches drawn.
In the overall Serie A records (home & away), Inter continue to lead the stats with 62 wins to Napoli’s 43 successes with 34 of the 139 meetings drawn.
In the earlier league meeting between the sides this season at the Stadio San Paolo, Napoli won 2-1 with goals from Higuain x2 and Ljajic.
The teams also met in the quarter-finals of this season’s Coppa Italia back in January of this year. This time Inter were victorious in Naples 0-2 with goals from Ljajic and Jovetic.
The corresponding fixture last season at the San Siro finished in a 2-2 draw with goals from Hernanes, Guarin and Callejon x2.
Napoli’s main goal scorer Higuain may be suspended for this game, however the Partenopei haven’t lost a league match when Manolo Gabbiadini has started.
Mauro Icardi has scored 50 goals for Inter in 100 appearances, that’s a goal every other game.
Player to Watch: Mauro Icardi – The captain’s goal last weekend was his 14th this season, which sees him joint second in the scoring charts with Dybala(Juve) and Bacca(Milan). The Argentine has also scored six in his last nine games.
My Prediction: Inter 2-1 Napoli
Scorers: Icardi, Brozovic (Inter), Hamsik (Napoli)
Officials: Referee: Gianluca Rocchi Assistants: Padovan, Manganelli
Fourth Official: Crispo Additional Assistants: Orsato, Damato
Author’s Note: This is a must-win game for Inter make no bones about it. A loss or draw here would be the final nail in the coffin for the Nerazzurri’s Champions League qualification hopes. Hopefully we will see the Inter that beat Napoli and Juve in the Coppa Italia and not the Inter that lost to Torino two weeks ago. A win would see the Nerazzurri keep the pressure on Roma. Would the real Inter please stand up!