Stadio Carlo Castellani, Empoli
Wednesday, 6th January, 2016
With the Christmas break ending, the Italian season is set to get underway yet again, with league leaders Inter Milan traveling to Empoli in order to keep their title challenge intact under the watchful eyes of Roberto Mancini. On the other hand, high flying Empoli would be trying to get at least a point from Inter at all costs.
Tean News & Tactical Brief
A run of four consecutive wins saw Empoli rise to the eighth position on the Serie A table, four points ahead of their nearest rivals Atalanta. However, the second half of the season begins with a run of difficult fixtures for Marco Giampaolo’s men, starting with a home match against league leaders Inter Milan.
Giampaolo has set his team up in such a way that they can play some good football and hurt even the best of sides in the league, with their short passing and buildup play. Also, the fact that they are playing at home, means that they are likely to impose this style of play even more on Inter Milan.
The 4-3-1-2, which is more famously known as the diamond formation, is likely to be favoured by Giampaolo, as this is the only formation his side has played for the entirety of the first half of the season. This formation would also not give Inter Milan much space in the middle of the park, and force them to play it out wide, which reduces the chance of conceding goals.
Leandro Paredes, Piotr Zielinski, and Marcel BA?chel are set to take charge in midfield, with the former bossing over the proceedings from the centre. Riccardo Saponara is likely to get the free role behind striker Massimo Maccarone and Manuel Pucciarelli. Both Saponara and Maccarone have been the men in form this season, scoring a total of 12 goals and eight assists between them.
However, Giampaolo’s main worry seems to be in defence, with centreback Lorenzo Tonelli doubtful for this crucial match. Federico Barba is set to fill up the position beside Andrea Costa, and this is something Inter forwards Mauro Icardi could take advantage of.
Probable Starting XI (4-3-1-2): . Skorupski; Rui, Costa, Barba, Laurini; Zielinski, Paredes, BA?chel; Saponara; Maccarone, Pucciarelli.
Roberto Mancini has played a host of different formations this season, but his team has always been well drilled and hard to beat. They suffered a rather disappointing 1-0 defeat at the hands of PSG in their mid-season training camp in Doha, but Mancini would be looking to increase that one point gap at the top of this year’s unpredictable Serie A table.
Mancini has mostly played the diamond formation himself, but since Giampaolo likes to play that formation too, he is likely to go with a setup that lets his side exploit the space on the flanks. Thus, it seems as if 4-3-3 is the likeliest of formations that the Italian would go with.
This would allow wingers like Adem Ljajic and Ivan Perisic to bomb down the flanks, with full-backs Danilo D’Ambrosio and Yuto Nagatomo overlapping them. Since Empoli would not really have any natural width, their fullbacks are likely to get outnumbered out wide with Inter Milan’s wingers and fullbacks.
The 4-3-3 formation also allows Mancini to pack the midfield with Gary Medel, Fredy Guarin, and Marcelo Brozovic. However, the absence of Felipe Melo through suspension could hurt Inter. Jeison Murillo has been more or less a constant fixture at the heart of the Inter Milan defence, and is set to be partnered by Miranda in that region, ahead of custodian Samir Handanovic.
Inter Milan ended their Christmas period with a disappointing 2-1 loss at home to Lazio. However, with a whole mid-season break between then and now, the Nerazzurri would be looking to continue their Scudetto challenge with business resuming as usual.
Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): Handanovic; Nagatomo, Miranda, Murillo, D’Ambrosio; Brozovic, Medel, Guarin; Ljajic, Icardi, Perisic.
- Inter Milan (11) have conceded half the number of goals as Empoli (22), in the first 17 Serie A matches of the season.
- Both Inter Milan and Empoli have scored the same number of goals in the Serie A, so far this season — 23.
- Empoli are on a four-match winning run in the Serie A.
- Inter Milan have won three of their last five competitive matches this season.
- Inter Milan have not conceded a single goal in their last three matches against Empoli.
Player to watch out for
Argentine strikers (Dybala at Juventus, and Higuain at Napoli) have been on fire in the Serie A this season, and Inter Milan have one of their own, in the form of Icardi. The 22-year-old would surely be the first choice up front for Mancini, ahead of Jovetic, if he opts to play the lone striker. Icardi has scored in four consecutive games before the winter break, and would be looking to continue that run of form, as the Seire A season resumes on Wednesday.
Empoli FC 1-1 Inter Milan
Inter Milan have not won the opening game of the winter season for the last three years, and faced with a strong Empoli side, may just continue that trend this season as well. With Icardi on fine scoring form from the visitor’s end, and Saponara weaving his patterns on the pitch from the home side’s end, this should make for quite an interesting draw.