Inter Milan are hoping to retain their solid advantage at the top of the Serie A table by snatching all three points against Genoa this weekend.

It has been a positive past seven days for Inter, whose 3-0 triumph in the Milan derby helped them register a four-point lead at the top of the Serie A table. And with AC Milan going winless in their last four matches, it appears the lack of European football has indeed served as a blessing for Antonio Conte’s men as they play hosts to Genoa on Sunday.

Inter are heading into this game on the back of a solid seven-day breather. They are already out of Coppa Italia and aren’t competing in Europe, which means the Nerazzurri will have the privilege of not particularly having congested fixture lists, unlike other top clubs, during the remainder of the campaign.

However, Inter’s schedule does not necessarily relieve them of any inconsistencies that might come in their way, with their weekend opponents Genoa often being lauded as a team that is capable of churning out points against the top dogs of Italian football.

Although Il Grifone have largely struggled against the likes of Inter, Milan and Juventus this campaign, they have secured points against AS Roma and Napoli, who failed to beat them home and away. The visitors are in good form as well and are unbeaten in the league for the last seven matches, during which they have secured four wins.

Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over the two sides ahead of this important matchup in Serie A, at the Giuseppe Meazza Stadium on Sunday.

Team News & Tactics

Inter Milan

MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 28: Achraf Hakimi of Real Madrid CF takes to the field for the start of the Copa del Rey, Round of 32, Second Leg match between Real Madrid and Fuenlabrada at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on November 28, 2017 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

Hakimi’s absence could be a huge blow for Inter. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

Inter Milan won’t have to deal with too many problems with regards to injuries. However, they do have Achraf Hakimi out suspended, which serves as a massive blow for Antonio Conte.

The Moroccan international’s pace and ability to drive forward with the ball was one of Inter’s main sources of creativity. But with him missing, Conte may have to make do with Matteo Darmian, in the right wing-back slot. The move could force the former Chelsea manager to persist with the more attack-minded Ivan Perisic on the opposite flank, instead of Ashley Young.

In midfield, Nicolo Barella and Stefano Sensi are slight doubts heading into this game. However, the Nerazzurri are likely to call Matias Vecino back into the matchday squad after the midfielder featured in the Primavera.

The Uruguayan is unlikely to start though as Conte persists with the midfield trifecta of Barella, Marcelo Brozovic and Christian Eriksen, who has appeared to have regained his manager’s faith following impressive performances in recent weeks.

The Dane’s ability to thread useful forward passes should serve the two strikers in Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku quite well. His proficiency from set-pieces should also bode well for the target men like Stefan de Vrij, Milan Skriniar and Alessandro Bastoni, all three of who are set to form the defensive line for Inter this weekend.

Bastoni should operate as an additional playmaker, as usual, using his ball-playing ability to provide some extra edge in the build-up play. Skriniar could also move up the pitch as the hosts look to adopt an all-out attacking approach.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, de Vrij, Bastoni; Darmian, Barella, Brozovic, Eriksen, Perisic; Martinez, Lukaku

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Genoa

Genoa head coach Davide Ballardini is missing a few of his key players, including Davide Biraschi, Cristian Zapata and Luca Pellegrini. But in Ivan Radovanovic, Andrea Masiello and Domenico Criscito, he has already found a stable backline that has performed well in recent matches.

The experience of the three central defenders, all of who are aged 32 or above, could be critical in keeping the Inter attack at bay. At the same time, their lack of pace could leave Genoa quite vulnerable against the likes of Lautaro Martinez and Ivan Perisic.

So that is where the wing-backs in Davide Zappacosta and the young Lennart Czyborra should play a vital role in offering defensive support for the back three as they look to provide cover for goalkeeper Mattia Perin.

Moving into midfield, Genoa have a competent set of players in Kevin Strootman and Milan Badelj with Miha Zajc operating in the holding midfield role. Ballardini could also call on the likes of Valon Behrami and Nicolo Rovella should he adopt a more defensive approach against the Serie A league leaders this weekend.

The strong defensive midfield unit, though, could come at the expense of a lack of support for the two strikers in Marko Pjaca and Mattia Destro. It is plausible that Ballardini prefers Goran Pandev instead of one of the two strikers, as the veteran forward can offer better creativity in the final third, albeit at the expense of pace and agility.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Perin; Radovanovic, Masiello, Criscito; Zappacosta, Strootman, Zajc, Badelj, Czyborra; Pjaca, Destro

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Key Stats

  • Inter have won each of their last five Serie A games against Genoa without conceding a single goal: the Nerazzurri have never won six games in a row without conceding against a single opponent in the competition.
  • Inter have won each of their last seven Serie A home games against Genoa: the Nerazzurri have only managed a longer such run against the Liguri between May 1956 and February 1965.
  • Inter have won each of their last eight Serie A home games: in the last 10 seasons, only Juventus and AS Roma have enjoyed a run of nine consecutive home wins in a single Serie A campaign.
  • Since Davide Ballardini joined Genoa, they have lost only one Serie A game, the joint fewest defeat during this period alongside Inter.
  • Inter have scored 57 goals in their 23 league games this season: only in 1949/50 (65) and 1950/51 (60) have they scored more at this stage of a Serie A campaign.

Player to Watch

Christian Eriksen

As mentioned earlier, Christian Eriksen has been a revelation for Inter in the past few weeks, becoming a mainstay in the first-team. His influence was particularly critical in the derby triumph over AC Milan while he was also involved in the win over Lazio earlier this month.

Despite his contributions, however, Eriksen still has room to improve. In fact, the Dane is yet to be involved in a single goal in Serie A so far, so the playmaker will be desperate to get his name on the scoresheet as Inter Milan lock horns with Genoa this weekend.

The former Tottenham star will be particularly hoping for set-piece opportunities in and around the final third, and with Achraf Hakimi already missing, he could certainly fancy his chances of finding the back of the net.

Prediction

Inter Milan 1-1 Genoa

Inter Milan have looked quite formidable at home, especially since the turn of the year. Their excellent run of form has helped them overtake Milan at the top of the table, but in Genoa, Conte should brace himself for a stern test against a side that has lost only one game since the appointment of Ballardini.

Therefore, we are expecting this game to go down to the wire as the two respective teams look to get the best out of each other. Inter do have the advantage due to their winning momentum, but it won’t be surprising to see the visitors hold on for a point this weekend.

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