Inter Milan will be aiming to kickstart their 2020/21 Serie A campaign on a winning note when they face off against Fiorentina this weekend.

Last season’s Serie A runners-up Inter Milan will look to begin the new campaign with a bang, when they play hosts to Fiorentina at San Siro on Saturday night.

The Nerazzurri had a strong first season under new manager Antonio Conte in 2019/20. They finished second in the Serie A, just a point below champions Juventus, while making it to the final of the UEFA Europa League. Their excursions in Europe mean they start the new campaign a week later than their competitors.

Preparations for the new campaign haven’t been all too ideal considering the short off-season break, but Inter head into their season opener on the back of two heavy wins against Lugano (5-0) and Pisa (7-0) in their pre-season friendlies.

Fiorentina, on the other hand, kicked off the season last week with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Torino, courtesy a Gaetano Castrovilli strike in the 78th minute. They are currently sixth in the table and manager Giuseppe Iachini will be hoping to lead the team to another win on Saturday and move further up the standings.

Both the league meetings between Inter and Fiorentina ended in draws last season, although the Nerazzurri did beat the Viola 2-1 in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals in January. And ahead of the upcoming clash this weekend, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.

Team News & Tactics

Inter Milan

Will Antonio Conte take Inter Milan all the way this season? (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

Will Antonio Conte take Inter Milan all the way this season? (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

There has been quite a bit of transfer activity at Inter Milan, with the likes of Arturo Vidal, Achraf Hakimi and Aleksandar Kolarov joining, while Henrique, Ivan Perisic, Radja Nainggolan are among a number of players to have returned from their respective loan spells.

There have been a few notable exits as well, with seasoned campaigners Antonio Candreva, Borja Valero and Diego Godin leaving, while Cristiano Biraghi has returned to Fiorentina after his loan stint. So, there will be some changes to the unit that Conte used regularly last season. Matias Vecino is out injured, while Stefan de Vrij is suspended.

In goal, there is no looking past captain Samir Handanovic. He will be shielded by a three-man backline comprising of Danilo D’Ambrosio, Alessandro Bastoni and new signing Kolarov, who will be making his debut for Inter. Another debutant, Hakimi will slot in as the right wing-back, whereas Ivan Perisic is set to pip Ashley Young on the opposite side.

Nicolo Barella had been an ever-present in the centre of the park for Inter last season and that is unlikely to change on Saturday. He is likely to be partnered by Roberto Gagliardini, with Christian Eriksen slotting in as the No.10 for the hosts. Arturo Vidal is also an option for the manager, although the ex-Barcelona ace may be used from the bench.

Up ahead in attack, there is no looking past the duo of Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, with Alexis Sanchez providing cover from the bench.

Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Handanovic; D’Ambrosio, Bastoni, Kolarov; Hakimi, Barella, Gagliardini, Perisic; Eriksen; Lukaku, Martinez

Fiorentina

The good news for Fiorentina is that captain and key defender German Pezzella is back in the squad after missing the opening game of the season with an injury. Sofyan Amrabat, who missed the last game due to suspension, is also back in contention. However, Erick Pulgar remains sidelined for the visitors.

Giuseppe Iachini will set his team up in a 3-5-2 formation in front of goalkeeper Bartlomiej Dragowski. Nikola Milenkovic, who has emerged as a target for Inter, should start in the three-man defence along with Martin Caceres. However, Pezzella is unlikely to start, even though he is part of the travelling squad, meaning Federico Ceccherini will be third centre-back.

Key man Federico Chiesa will slot in as the right-sided wing-back, while Cristiano Biraghi, back from his loan stint at Inter, should start on the left. The duo will be key in providing the width going forward for the Viola in this setup.

Amrabat should occupy one of the three midfield spots, alongside last time’s match-winner Gaetano Castrovilli and Alfred Duncan. Although new signings Giacomo Bonaventura and Borja Valero are also options in midfield.

Franck Ribery has done fairly well in Italy since arriving a year ago. The 37-year-old should form the two-pronged attacking unit alongside Christian Kouame for Fiorentina.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Dragowski; Milenkovic, Ceccherini, Caceres; Chiesa, Amrabat, Duncan, Castrovilli, Biraghi; Kouame, Ribery

Key Stats

  • Inter Milan are undefeated in their last six fixtures against Fiorentina in Serie A (W2 D4). Their last loss against the Viola came in April 2017.
  • Fiorentina were one of only two teams that Inter failed to defeat in the 2019/20 Serie A, the other team being champions Juventus.
  • Fiorentina could keep two clean sheets in a row away from home against Inter Milan in Serie A for the first time since 1941.
  • Should Inter win on Saturday, Antonio Conte will become the first Nerazzurri manager to win their opening game in consecutive Serie A seasons since Roberto Mancini (2005/06 and 2006/07).
  • Fiorentina are currently on a three-game unbeaten run in Serie A. They last won four league matches in a row back in April 2018.

Player to Watch

Romelu Lukaku

Will Lukaku be the difference between the two sides? (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

Will Lukaku be the difference between the two sides? (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

The Belgian international enjoyed a scintillating debut season in Italy following a big money move from Manchester United last summer. Lukaku was integral to Inter’s second place finish and the Europa League finals run, finishing the season with 34 goals in 51 matches across all competitions.

Lukaku has scored three goals in the opening fixtures of a season in the last three seasons – once with Inter and twice with Manchester United. He will once again be the key man for Inter, if they are to start the season on a strong note and push Juventus for the title.

Prediction

Inter Milan 1-1 Fiorentina

Fiorentina have grown into one of the tightest defensive units in Serie A since Giuseppe Iachini took over towards the end of last year. Having played a game already and made a winning start, they have a slight advantage over their opponents.

While Inter have the superior squad in comparison to Fiorentina, they will be playing their first game of the season because of which there are likely to be signs of rust and with a few new faces in the side, it might take a little time for the team to gel. Thus, The Hard Tackle is predicting this one to end in a 1-1 draw.

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