San Siro, Milan
25th August; 17:00 BST
The Italian season kicks off this weekend as teams across the country will finally put behind their three months of preparation to take the pitch and fight it out to achieve the goals set for them. For the elite quotient, not winning the scudetto would be a deemed failure. For the upcoming forces, the 3rd place remains the elusive target. For the bogeys, survival in the top flight remains the key.
Inter Milan, who have undergone yet another summer of transition, will be hoping to consolidate themselves among the top rung of the country as they look to start their campaign on a positive note against a team which itself has been flirting with the essence of survival for a couple of season. The Nerazzurri have remained undefeated in the past 15 encounters against Genoa, whether they can continue the legacy or manage to break it remains to be seen.
It will also be a significant 90 minutes for Walter Mazzarri, as the former Napoli coach will finally be able to gauge the impact of his implemented style as well as the cohesion among the new signings with the team. The tactician has made a wholesale of changes to the playing squad, bringing in a mixture of fresh, young talent and experienced campaigners as he embarks upon his mission to revive another falling institution.
Coming to Genoa, the club have been in the doldrums of flirting with relegation for the past two seasons. The close season has overseen a similar level of activity as at Inter, with a new boss coming in alongside making a host of changes to the playing squad. The new manager, Fabio Liverani will be expected to make a marked improvement upon the consecutive 17th place finishes, as he looks to avenge last season’s last minute heart-ache for his team, who were well on their way to collecting 3 points until an Esteban Cambiasso header forced them to share the spoils.
Coming to the injury front, the Nerazzurri are still coping with the long term injury to Javier Zanetti. Striker Diego Milito is still out with a knee injury that he sustained in the Europa League back in February, while a thigh injury to Walter Samuel and a foot injury to Cristian Chivu, who recently underwent surgery are also unavailable for tomorrow. Ezequiel Schelotto is rumoured to be on his way out to England, with both Fulham and Crystal Palace being interested in taking the Argentinian on a season long loan. The club are also in the jostles to sign Mauricio Isla from Juventus. Rodrigo Palacio will be looking to continue his rich vein of form from last week’s Coppa Italia tie, where the Argentinian forward scored a brace to help his side to a 4-0 victory.
The triumvirate of Juan, Hugo Campagnaro and Andrea Rannochia are expected to keep Genoa’s trident of attackers in check. Esteban Cambiasso and Freddy Guarin will be expected to press the likes of Kucka and Lodi to prevent the Rossoblu’s midfield to settle into the game.
Predicted Line-Up (3-5-2) – Handanovic (GK); Rannochia; Juan; Campagnaro; Schelotto; Periera; Cambiasso; Guarin; Kovacic; Belfodil; Palacio
The Rossoblu will be without the services of the duo of Giovanni Marchese and David Biondini, both of whom have been suspended on grounds of alleged match-fixing. The new arrivals are fit and ready to go, and will be expected to make an instant impact, particularly Alessandro Gamberini and Sime Vrsaljko who will look to steady the ship in defense.
Vrsaljko and Antonelli will share the burden of Genoa’s attacks from the wings, and will come upfront against Periera and Schelotto respectively. Gamberini and De Maio will have their hands full of Ishak Belfodil and Rodrigo Palacio, both of whom will be looking to make a statement of purpose. On the other hand, Gilardino will look to unsettle the Andrea Rannochia( the probable weak-link of Inter’s backline) and make spaces for himself and his team-mates.
Predicted Line-up [ 4-3-2-1] : Perin (GK); Vrsaljko; Gamberini; De Maio; Antonelli; Samprisi; Lodi; Kucka; Santana; Bertolacci; Gilardino
Players To Watch Out For
Ishak Belfodil (Inter)
The Algerian forward secured a move from Parma to the Nerazzurri this summer, and is expected to finally fulfill the potential in him. The physically imposing striker will be on the hunt against his Genoa counterparts and expose the lack of their pace by running into channels and bringing his own team-mates into play.
Mario Santana (Genoa)
The 31 year old has consistently jumped ships over the past seasons in the league, in search for his elusive best. Giampiero Ventura managed to get the Argentinian #10 ticking once again, but a string of injuries prevented him from showcasing his best talents. A move to Genoa represents a new challenge for Santana, and expectations would be that the Argentine midfielder picks himself for every game this season, with a constant showing of flair and creativity.
- The Nerazzurri haven’t lost to Genoa in the last 15 matches between the two
- Genoa barely avoided relegation last season. Siena’s six point penalty for charges against match fixing meant that the Rossoblu barely held on to their Serie A Status
- The Rossoblu have failed to score in their last 3 Serie A games
- Inter have lost 3 out of their last 6 Serie A home games
Inter 3-1 Genoa
Inter’s quality across the ranks might prove a bit too much for a newly made Genoa to handle, but I expect the likes of Lodi and Santana to make one goal for the Rossoblu.