An elated Inter host lowly SPAL at the Meazza looking to continue their impressive run of results and continue piling the pressure onto Juventus. Match tomorrow Sunday at 15:00 CET.
Managing to navigate the team’s mindset from match to match is one of Antonio Conte’s standout strengths, and this skill will be needed in spades this week. Inter face a bag of mental traps here, between the possibility of underestimating the opposition, the post midweek victory hangover and the fact that the midfield engine has been downgraded from a high performance V12 to a lawnmower due to injuries and the side must be meticulously mentally prepared to overcome all challenges.
This will be a match that Inter will want to dominate proceedings from start to finish. With the possibility of having a midfield duo of Borja Valero or Roberto Gagliardini playing next to Mattias Vecino ahead of Marcelo Brozovic, the participatory play of the wing-backs will be very important here. Expect Conte to start with Valentino Lazaro on the right flank and then use either Cristiano Briraghi or Antonio Candreva on the opposite side. Another work-around to compensate for the depleted midfield will be asking Milan Skrinniar to push forward into midfield when in possession to allow Brozo more freedom when carrying the attack forward.
SPAL have had a miserable season so far; they have not won since early October, which was only their second win in the entire season. Leonardo Semplici’s men have become prime contenders for relegation. While the team from Ferrara has been disappointing, they still possess a few attacking threats. Their attacking lineup of Andrea Petagna, Federico DiFrancesco, Sergio Floccari and Alberto Paloschi contains a mix of seasoned veterans and rising stars some of whom have gladly tormented Inter’s defences in the past.
The fact that SPAL mirror Inter’s 3-5-2 formation might give them some ability to lock Inter’s attack out for some duration of the match, but will also give Inter the possibility of knowing which spaces to attack and when to attack them a bit more easily. Despite this being a match that Inter will be slated to win comfortably, expect SPAL to put up more of a fight that one might have given them credit for.
A false injury dawn was reported here last week, since then Stefano Sensi has continued to fail to recover from his injury as has Kwadwo Asamoah but perhaps most painful is the loss of Nicolo Barella to a knee injury in Turin. With the midfield strained, Conte will have to throw in the hot/cold duo of Roberto Gagliardini and Mattias Vecino.
Probable line-up (3-5-2): Handanovic (C); Bastoni, DiVrij, Skriniar; Lazaro, Vecino, Brozovic, Gagliardini, Biraghi; Lautaro, Lukaku.
Last Season: Inter 2 – 0 SPAL
Last 10 Head to Head: In the two sides’ short history, Inter have clearly dominated proceedings, winning three out of the four matches and never having lost.
Keep an Eye on
Romelu Lukaku: Il Gigante had a season-defining performance against Slavia Prague midweek, assisting once (immaculately) and scoring a hat-trick (never should have been ruled out in our humble opinion). It is common knowledge that Lukaku is a very temperamental striker in the sense that when he feels support and adulation his performances generally improve. Expect Lukaku to be very important this match.
Referee: Massimiliano Irrati.
Assistants: Caliari and Vecchi.
Fourth Official: Volpi.
VAR Assistants: Banti and Vivenzi.
Prediction & Concluding Remarks
Prediction & scorers: Inter 2-1 Lukaku and Brozo scoring for Inter and Petagna clawing one back for the visitors.
Concluding remarks: Despite the fact that the contrast in quality between the two sides is very stark, expect this match to be more difficult than it appears on paper. Inter might be suffering a post CL euphoria adrenaline dump and the missing Barella and Sensi in midfield will probably adversely affect their ability to break down SPAL. That said, expect Inter’s superior quality to clinch it for the hosts in the end.