Inter Milan will be aiming to knock Juventus off their perch at the top of the Serie A table when they take on relegation battlers Lecce this weekend.

Inter Milan will be looking to reclaim the top spot in the 2019-20 Serie A standings when they travel to Stadio Comunale Via del Mare to lock horns against Lecce on Sunday afternoon.

Inter Milan slipped down to the second place in the table after being held to a 1-1 draw by Atalanta last weekend and are two points behind leaders Juventus. The Nerazzurri recovered from that result with a 4-1 win over Cagliari in the Coppa Italia and will be aiming to carry that momentum into Sunday’s fixture to come away with three points from manager Antonio Conte’s hometown.

Lecce, back in the Serie A for the first time since 2010-11, are battling for survival, as they are stationed in the 17th spot in the table, just a point above the drop zone. Fabio Liverani’s men are without a win in their last six games across all competitions (D1 L5), with their most recent fixture ending in a 2-0 defeat to Parma.

A win against Inter is a highly unlikely prospect, but they will be hoping to salvage at least a point from Sunday’s fixture.

The reverse fixture saw Inter thrash Lecce 4-0, with Marcelo Brozovic, Stefano Sensi, Romelu Lukaku and Antonio Candreva scoring. And ahead of the weekend’s contest between two teams at the opposite ends of the spectrum in Serie A, we at The Hard Tackle take a closer look at the encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Lecce

The hosts will be without the services of the injured Diego Farias, who was sent off in the reverse fixture against Inter, while Evgen Shakhov is also ruled out of the contest. There is some good news though, with Marco Calderoni returning to full fitness and in contention to start against the Nerazzurri.

Manager Liverani is expected to stick with the 4-3-1-2 formation he has preferred to use this term, with Gabriel lining up under the woodwork. The four-man backline will likely comprise of Luca Rossettini and Fabio Lucioni at the centre, flanked by Guilio Donati and the returning Calderoni on the right and left sides respectively.

Panagiotis Tachtsidis will be in charge of anchoring the Lecce midfield and will seek support from Jacopo Petriccione and on-loan midfielder Alessandro Deiola, who will be a regular in the middle of the park from now on following Andrea Tabanelli’s departure earlier this month.

The creative responsibilities will fall on the shoulders of Marco Mancosu, who will be key in fashioning opportunities for the two-pronged strike force of Khouma Babacar and Filippo Falco.

Probable Lineup (4-3-1-2): Gabriel; Donati, Rossettini, Lucioni, Calderoni; Petriccione, Tachtsidis, Deiola; Mancosu; Falco, Babacar

Inter Milan

Antonio Conte’s injury woes have eased up heading into the weekend fixture with Danilo D’Ambrosio the only Inter Milan player unavailable for the trip to Lecce. There will be a number of changes to the side that defeated Cagliari in the cup tie though.

Captain Samir Handanovic ought to continue between the sticks for the title challengers, but Diego Godin is set to make way for Alessandro Bastoni, while Stefan de Vrij also should be back after being rested for the cup tie, at the expense of Andrea Ranocchia, who was on the scoresheet against Cagliari. Milan Skriniar will complete the three-man backline for Inter.

There will be alterations in the wing-back slots as well, with Antonio Candreva likely to replace Valentino Lazaro on the right side and Cristiano Biraghi should get the nod on the opposite flank. New signing Ashley Young, who joined from Manchester United earlier in the week, might have to wait for his debut.

Nicolo Barella and Marcelo Brozovic are key members of Conte’s midfield unit and should be retained in the side, while Stefano Sensi is expected to return in place of Borja Valero, who was also one of the goalscorers for Inter in the midweek clash.

Romelu Lukaku has been in scintillating form for the Nerazzurri and is one of the first names on Conte’s teamsheet. He will be partnered by Lautaro Martinez against Lecce, with Alexis Sanchez, who started against Cagliari, set to make way.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, de Vrij, Bastoni; Candreva, Barella, Brozovic, Sensi, Biraghi; Lukaku, Martinez

Key Stats

  • Inter Milan have picked up 25 points out of the 27 available in their opening nine away games in the current season in Serie A. Previously, the Nerazzurri had never won more than 23 points on the road at this stage.
  • Lecce have scored only thee goals in their last nine Serie A games against Inter, never more than one per match. The Nerazzurri have won seven such meetings, one draw and the Giallorossi securing one win.
  • Antonio Conte has won 14 of his first 19 Serie A games as Inter manager, fewer than just Alfredo Foni (1952-53) and Giovanni Invernizzi (1970-71) after as many matches for the Nerazzurri.
  • Lecce are winless in their last 12 home games in Serie A (D4 L8): only once have they endured a streak of 13 consecutive home games without wins in the Italian top-flight, in 2009.
  • On both the two previous occasions which Inter picked up at least 46 points in the opening 19 matches of a Serie A campaign in the three points for a win era (since 1994-95), they won the Scudetto at the end of the season (2006-07 and 2007-08).

Player to Watch

Romelu Lukaku

In red hot form (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

In red hot form (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

The Belgian international has been in top goalscoring form ever since he joined Inter Milan from Manchester United in the summer last year. So far this term, Lukaku has already bagged 18 goals in 25 matches across all competitions, while he has also set up four more.

The 26-year-old has scored six goals in his last four appearances in all competitions, including a brace in the midweek cup tie win against Cagliari. It was against Lecce, on his debut, that Lukaku opened his goalscoring account for Inter and he will be keen on getting on the scoresheet once again when he faces the Giallorossi.

Prediction

Lecce 0-3 Inter Milan

Lecce haven’t won a single game at home this season and going up against an Inter Milan outfit that will be high on confidence after blowing Cagliari away in the midweek will be a monumental task for them. The Nerazzurri will be gunning for a victory, having slipped up against Atalanta last week, allowing Juventus to go ahead in the title race.

With the form that Romelu Lukaku is in going up against the joint-worst defence in Serie A this term, Antonio Conte’s men should collect three points quite comfortably on the manager’s return to his hometown.

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