Inter can’t seem to keep away the controversies, a draw against lowly Chievo followed by midweek squad drama mean that Inter, once again, need a result here to keep their season on track. Match on tonight at 20:30 CET.
To call Napoli the surprise of the season would be a gross disservice to both Aurelio DeLaurentis and Maurizio Sarri whose work in building the squad and style of play over the past few years has been transformative to Neapolitan side as well as to Carlo Ancelotti who has demonstrated in over four different clubs why he is one of Europe’s top active managers. Nevertheless, no one expected the transition from Sarriball to Ancelotism to be so smooth. The Partenopei have demonstrated that they have passed any transitioning tests with flying colors and that they are deserved holders of the second spot in the league table.
Ancelotti, in his trademark understated, almost casual manner, has kept the core of players that Sarri constructed and added an amount of depth to the squad that was unimaginable under the previous manager. Players like Adam Ounas, Fabian Ruiz and Marko Rog find themselves featuring regularly for their team, making it more difficult to predict who will start for the visitors tonight as opposed to the equivalent fixture last season.
Inter’s Luciano Spaletti has also injected plenty of rotation and flexibility into his side as opposed to last season. Almost every position can now be covered by at least two players of comparable ability. Tonight, however, Spaletti will probably not resort to much experimentation. He will pick his side based on physical ability and output. Talk in the papers is of a 4-3-3 formation rather than the more frequently deployed 4-2-3-1. It is in the former formation that the reborn Joao Mario really shines, while simultaneously, the module seems to give Inter a better since of balance especially when facing teams that are strong in the midfield.
If Inter are to try and win the game, the midfield trio will be key; they must move constantly yet with synchronicity making sure to keep the Napoli midfield guessing and off their rhythm while never neglecting their defensive duties. Expect Spaletti to instruct either Ivan Perisic or Matteo Politano to overload his counterpart’s flank, a tactic that works great especially if one of the midfield trio can move to cover the out-of-position winger when necessary. This match will be between two strong sides and two seasoned tacticians with plenty to prove. Expect fireworks.
Radja Nainngolan is in the headlines once again, but for all the wrong reasons. After having been suspended by the club for tardiness in practice, some audio has surfaced on the internet where Radja allegedly expresses his unhappiness at Inter and with Interisti in general and declaring his desire to return to the capital. It is important to note that many experts have since come out and refuted the recording’s authenticity, either way it has not been a good week for the Ninja. Joao Miranda also seems to have picked up a slight knock and has not been selected by Spaletti in the match squad.
Probable Inter line-u: (4-3-3): Handanovic; Vrsalijko, Skriniar, DiVrij, Asamoah; Joao Mario, Brozovic, Vecino; Politano, Icardi (C), Perisic
Last Season: Inter 0 – 0 Napoli.
Last 10 Head to Head: Napoli clearly have the upper hand in recent times over Inter. They have beaten the Nerazzurri four times to the hosts’ single victory. Interestingly, draws are the most common result between the two sides with the teams racking up a remarkable five draws in the last ten matches.
Player to Watch:
Mauro Icardi: The Inter captain will be required to really step up to the Captain’s plate today. Last week the striker cut a frustrated figure at the Bentogodi stadium, visibly expressing frustration with himself and his team-mates’ service on more than once occasion. This isn’t Icardi’s first rodeo, he knows exactly what’s required of him to pull his colleagues out of this slump and he needs to deliver on that leadership responsibility to perfection tonight.
Referee: Paolo Mazzoleni
Assistants: Costanzo and Paganessi.
Fourth Official: Abisso
VAR Officials: Magnaniello and Peretti
Prediction & Concluding remarks
Prediction & scorers: Inter 1-0 Napoli with an Icardi tie-breaker.
Concluding remarks: The Meazza can be a tough arena when times are less than optimal, however, the way to win over the Interisti is straightforward and easy. So long as the stands feel that the players are leaving it all on the pitch, with every tackle, every run and every pass, expect the stadium to be player number 12. However, if the supporters feel, for a second, a lack of desire, concentration or output by the players, then it will be a good night for the visitors.