Inter Milan travel away to Cagliari in the Serie A after crashing out of the UEFA Champions League in midweek.

Inter Milan continued their recent woeful Champions League record and failed to qualify for the knockout stages yet again. They have failed to go beyond the group stage in the past three seasons and this is the first time they have finished at the disappointing fourth place. Last year’s Europa League finalists failed to qualify for that competition too and will now only compete domestically this season.

Last time Antonio Conte managed a team without European obligations, he won the league title with them – Chelsea. With the Italian’s job under immense scrutiny, Conte will have to lift the low morale of the squad and compete for the league title with full intent.

Inter, who have done rather well in the Serie A, would be hoping to put their Champions League heartbreak behind them and look to close the gap with league leaders and local rivals, AC Milan. Currently boasting the record for most goals scored, Inter face one of the league’s worst defences in the form of Cagliari.

Cagliari started the season rather strongly but have fallen off since then – failing to win in their last 3 league games. Their defence holds the record of conceding approximately 2 goals per game, which is a scary prospect versus a team like Inter Milan. Coach Eusebio Di Francesco will rely on talisman Joao Pedro to inspire the team to cause an upset.

Team News & Tactics

Cagliari

Cagliari are currently placed 11th in the Serie A and are winless in the last three games. In the form that they are in, a match versus Inter Milan is probably not the best thing for them. However, given that Inter are vulnerable at the moment, Cagliari would be hoping to find a positive result and turn their fortunes.

Eusebio Di Francesco has somewhat of a selection headache at the back. Diego Godin has been ruled out yet again with another COVID positive test, while Ragnar Klavan who has been named in the squad, is unlikely to start. Sebastian Walukiewicz, who is linked with Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United, should start at centre-back alongside Andrea Carboni.

Leonardo Pavoletti has been a key figure for Cagliari in the last two matches in the final third and ought to start against Inter. Nahitan Nandez, Joao Pedro and Ricardo Sottil will join Pavoletti in the attack. Gabriele Zappa and Charalampos Lykogiannis should start as full-backs.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Cragno; Lykogiannis, Walukiewicz, Carboni, Zappa; Marin, Rog; Sottil, Pedro, Nandez; Pavoletti

Inter Milan

Following the disappointment in midweek, Inter Milan manager Antonio Conte is expected to start a full-strength line-up versus Cagliari, with their three premier centre-backs – Milan Skriniar, Stefan de Vrij and Alessandro Bastoni all set to feature

Achraf Hakimi is expected to continue in his favoured right wing-back role ahead of fellow summer signing Matteo Darmian, while Ashley Young could get the nod over Ivan Perisic for yet another game on the opposite end.

Marcelo Brozovic and Ricardo Gagliardini should retain their spots in midfield, deservedly, while Christian Eriksen could be handed a rare start with Nicolo Barella a doubt with a slight knock in training.

Conte has a selection dilemma to choose between Alexis Sanchez and Lautaro Martinez to partner Inter’s talisman Romelu Lukaku. The manager could opt to go with the Belgian’s ex-Manchester United teammate on Sunday.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Handanovic; Bastoni, De Vrij, Skriniar; Young, Gagliardini, Brozovic, Eriksen, Hakimi; Sanchez, Lukaku

Key Stats

  • Inter Milan have won 6 out of their last 9 matches versus Cagliari scoring 21 goals in the process.
  • Cagliari have conceded more goals against Inter Milan (134) than any other team in the Serie A.
  • Cagliari have scored 17 goals in the Serie A this season. Only once have the scored 17 goals or more after their first 10 games in a domestic season.
  • Since 2015, Cagliari have only lost more matches to Napoli (5/5) than they have to Inter Milan (4/5).
  • Leonardo Pavoletti – who has a goal and an assist since recently replacing Giovanni Simeone – has registered three goals in four home matches against Inter, including in his last two games against the Nerazzurri, for Cagliari.

Player to Watch

Romelu Lukaku

Given how things have gone this season for Inter Milan, especially in Europe, they are in desperate need for a turnaround. Romelu Lukaku has been their talisman since joining last year and is one to show immense personality.  And his performance will be key if Inter are to get a result out of this important fixture.

The Belgian international has been Inter’s top scorer in the Serie A with 8 goals this season. The presence of Eriksen and Hakimi should help bring the best out of Lukaku, who is likely to produce a big performance against Cagliari.

Prediction

Cagliari 0-2 Inter Milan

A big performance is expected from Inter Milan who must make sure to lift themselves after a disappointing end to their European campaign. This match will be a true test of Inter’s mentality and The Hard Tackle predicts them to bounce back strongly and earn all three points against Cagliari.

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