A lackluster draw against Atalanta last week means that Inter have ceded top spot back to Juventus, now the Nerazzurri want to get back on track against minnows Lecce. Match today Sunday at 15:00 CET.
Fabio Liverani’s Lecce have been pleasantly surprising this season, in that they always look to play expansive attacking football not usually associated with newly promoted sides. Despite a bright start to the season where they picked up a couple of wins in close proximity, the Lupi from the South have had their fortunes turn and now find themselves just above the drop zone.
With only one clean sheet and the joint worst goals conceded record so far this season, one might infer that Liverani’s high stakes philosophy might need some pragmatic tempering if the team from Italy’s heel is to remain in the top flight next season.
That said, in Kouma Babacar and Gianluca Lapadula, Liverani has a pair of well seasoned attacking professionals around the peak of their physical performance and who have the experience and ability to trouble any top flight defensive line. Interestingly, Lecce’s top scorer is attacking midfielder Marco Mancosu, who is generally able to find spaces between opposing midfield and defensive lines.
Antonio Conte will undoubtedly be very disappointed to have handed over the league advantage to rivals Juventus by drawing at home against Atlanta last week. Conte will prepare his side to make sure that all three points are taken back to Milano.
With Lazio breathing down the back of Inter’s neck, Conte will know that any more missteps can lead to his side dropping down to third place and potentially opening the well documented Nerazzurri psychological wounds.
Conte will finally have both Stefano Sensi and Nicolo Barella to start the match. The duo have had a brilliant start to the season, but respective long-term injuries have meant that Conte has been unable to select the pair for at least a couple of months now. When both players have been on the pitch, Inter have played some of their best football in years, with a level of confidence and solidity not seen since the treble winning side.
Now Inter have their dynamic diminutive duo to rule the center of the pitch, and the LuLa attacking pair to torment opposing defenses, expect the Nerazzurri to be in good standing to make a decent run during this mid-season spell.
Only Danilo D’Ambrosio is unavailable for selection, it even appears that newcomer Ashley Young might make the squad selection. With the situation around Appiano Gentile and the transfer market currently being in flux, it seems that Matias Vecino and Matteo Politano will not be selected for the match squad.
Probable line-up (3-5-2): Handanovic (C); Godin, De Vrij, Skriniar; Candreva, Barella, Brozovic, Sensi, Biraghi; Lautaro, Lukaku.
Last Season: Not played, Lecce in Serie B.
Last 10 Head to Head: With Lecce’s last appearance in the Serie A having been back in 2012, it is difficult to infer much from the head to head record between the two sides.
Keep an Eye on
Romelu Lukaku: Lukaku’s midweek performance against Cagliari in the Coppa Italia was, once again, masterful. The big Belgian has been in sensational form through the winter months. In Lecce, he will be facing a defensive line that has managed to keep just one clean sheet all season long, expect the striker to be decisive here.
Referee: Piero Giacomelli.
Assistants: Liberti and Bottegoni.
Fourth Official: Marini.
VAR Assistants: Guida and Fiorito.
Prediction & Concluding Remarks
Prediction & scorers: Lecce 0-2 Inter with Lukaku and Lautaro to score for the visitors.
Despite having dropped off first place, the mood in the Inter camp is still quite elated, especially with the buzz around the transfer winder as well as emphatic win in the Coppa Italia. With Conte finally having his preferred midfield module all at his disposal, expect Inter to manage the game professionally and take home all three points with relative ease.