Preview: Inter vs Empoli
Inter will be hoping to bounce back from their disappointing defeat to Lazio last time out when they take on Empoli at the San Siro on Saturday evening (kick-off 18:00CET).
Last weekend’s 2-0 loss at the Stadio Olimpico was one of Inter’s worst performances of the season defensively with the usually reliable partnership of Jeison Murillo and Joao Miranda struggling along with man-of-the-match Antonio Candreva giving Yuto Nagatomo nightmares all night.
Colombian international Murillo was sent-off foolishly after picking up two bookings in the space of just two minutes and 17 seconds for Inter’s 11th red card of their league campaign, only Atalanta have had more dismissals (14).
Nerazzurri Coach Roberto Mancini was scathing in his comments about the performance to the media after the game.
“We played poorly in the first half and the first 20 minutes was terrible. We got the final ball wrong so many times. I’m disappointed with the result and the attitude shown by some players. Many of them need to understand what Inter is about,” said a visibly frustrated Mancini.
The result means the Aquile have did the double over Inter this season in addition to the Nerazzurri’s slim chances of Champions League qualification going up in smoke as Roma are seven points clear in third-place with two games remaining.
Inter’s objective now is to consolidate fourth-place which would qualify the Nerazzurri for next season’s Europa League group phase.
Empoli come into this game on the back of a 0-0 draw last weekend at home against Bologna. The Azzurri have only scored once in their last four outings.
Marco Giampaolo’s troops have had a difficult time away from home in the second-half of the season with just two wins compared to their five away wins in the first-half of the campaign. The Azzurri haven’t won any of their last eight matches on the road (six losses, two draws).
With Empoli safe in Serie A for another year they can now enjoy their remaining games without the pressure of a relegation dogfight and they will want to improve their record against the Nerazzurri, who they haven’t beat in the league at the San Siro since January 2004.
Here is the Inter team news and probable line-up as reported by La Gazzetta dello Sport at the time of writing this article:
Roberto Mancini is set to keep faith with a 4-2-3-1 formation with Samir Handanovic in goal and Danilo D’Ambrosio at right back. In central defence Jeison Murillo is suspended with Juan Jesus expected to take his place beside Joao Miranda alongside Yuto Nagatomo at left back.
Gary Medel and Geoffrey Kondogbia are expected to play in a double-pivot in the Nerazzurri midfield.
On the right Jonathan Biabiany could replace Marcelo Brozovic with Ivan Perisic on the left. Stevan Jovetic is favoured over Eder for a place behind Mauro Icardi in the central striking role.
There are question marks over Adem Ljajic after picking up a knock in training this week.
Probable Inter line-up (subject to change): (4-2-3-1) Handanovic; D’Ambrosio, Miranda, Juan Jesus, Nagatomo; Medel, Kondogbia; Biabiany, Jovetic, Perisic; Icardi (C)
Bench: Berni, Carrizo, Santon, Telles, Popa, Gnoukouri, Melo, Brozovic, Eder, Palacio, Manaj, Ljajic(?)
Inter have faced Empoli at the San Siro in Serie A on 10 occasions, winning nine and losing just once.
In the overall Serie A records (home & away), the Nerazzurri continue to lead the stats with 15 wins to the Azzurri’s three wins with three of the 21 meetings ending in a draw.
After defeat to Lazio, Inter have won just one of their last nine away matches in Serie A, losing five in that time.
Empoli’s one and only win at the San Siro against the Nerazzurri in the league came back in January 2004 in a 0-1 success thanks to a last-minute winner from ex-Inter striker Tommaso Rocchi.
The Azzurrri’s last win against the Nerazzurri (home or away) came back in April 2006 at the Stadio Carlo Castellani 1-0 after a Marco Materazzi own goal. Since then there have been seven league encounters with Inter winning six and drawing once.
Jeison Murillo’s red card last weekend was his second of the season, he joins Felipe Melo, Yuto Nagatomo and Joao Miranda in being sent-off twice this campaign.
This will be referee Marco Di Bello’s first time in charge of an Inter match.
Player to Watch: Mauro Icardi – The Argentine will see this game as a good chance to score after not hitting the back of the net in his last three appearances. He has scored three and assisted twice against Empoli in three outings against them.
My Prediction: Inter 2-0 Empoli
Scorers: Icardi, Perisic
Officials: Referee: Marco Di Bello Assistants: Ranghetti, Tasso
Fourth Official: Paganessi Additional Assistants: Giacomelli, Aureliano
Author’s Note: With a tricky away trip to in-form Sassuolo to come on the last day, Inter’s best chance of achieving their goal will be to win against the Azzurri. The Nerazzurri should win this match due to Empoli’s record at San Siro but I wouldn’t rule this game out as a potential banana skin especially after the Nerazzurri’s pathetic performance last weekend.