Defending champions Inter Milan will look to close the gap on league leaders Napoli, as they face a difficult trip to Lazio on Saturday.

Inter Milan are yet undefeated in Serie A this season but find themselves four points behind early trendsetters Napoli after seven games played this season.

They next travel to the Stadio Olimpico to face a Lazio side still smarting from their 3-0 defeat to Bologna. Le Aquile are a formidable side on their day but often shoot themselves in their foot thanks to their inconsistency.

Despite the flaws, Inter will do well to be wary of Maurizio Sarri’s side.  Their ability was clear for all to see in the impressive win over Jose Mourinho’s AS Roma earlier in the season.

Inter, despite their seemingly good start have struggled at times. A prime example of that being their recent 2-2 draw against Atalanta. Given how well Napoli have coped so far, the defending champions can not afford to be at anything but their best, if they are to avoid losing ground at the top of Serie A standings.

The Nerazzurri had almost slipped against Sassuolo before the international break. It was only a series of inspired substitutions and a change in tactics that saw them turn the game around in the second half. Luck will not hold for long and Inter have a real opportunity to showcase their title credentials. What happens on the night could depend well on which Lazio decides to turn up on the day.

To add spice to the contest, Lazio are sure to give a hostile reception to former boss Simone Inzaghi who quit the club to take over at the San Siro earlier in the summer.

Team News & Tactics

Lazio

Lazio prepare for the game without their star defender Francesco Acerbi who was sent off against Bologna. He looks set to be replaced by Patric at the heart of Sarri’s defence. He will be partnered by Luiz Felipe at centre-back playing in front of goalkeeper Pepe Reina.

The back four will be completed by Elseid Hysaj and Adam Marusic on the flanks. While the back four picks itself, it will be in other areas of Sarri’s 4-3-3 system that the game could be decided.

Brazilian veteran Lucas Leiva looks set to be the anchor in midfield, letting former Liverpool teammate Luis Alberto and Serbian sensation Sergej Milinkovic-Savic deploy further upfront and contribute to the attack.

Pedro and Felipe Anderson will start up front on either side of veteran Italian ace Ciro Immobile. The 31-year-old recently trained with the side and is expected to start upfront. Sarri does have options and could always bring on Mattia Zaccagni and Vedad Muriqi off the bench.

Playing at home will certainly spur on Lazio. They are on a 16-game unbeaten run at the Stadio Olimpico in the Italian top flight. Having won 14 of those games, Le Aquile cannot be taken lightly.

Probable Lineup (4-4-3): Reina; Hysaj, Patric, Felipe, Marusic; Alberto, Lucas, Milinkovic-Savic; Pedro Immobile, Anderson

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Inter Milan

Simone will be familiar with his opponents given that he was in charge of Lazio from 2016 to 2021. Having learned his trade in the Lazio youth and reserve sides, his stint at Inter is his first away from the Italian capital.

Despite winning his former employers the Coppa Italia in 2019, he is sure to receive a hostile reception. The 45-year-old’s tactics proved ineffective against Sassuolo prior to the international break. However, he showed off his tactical flexibility and turned it around with sharp substitutions and change of tactics in the second half.

It will be put to the test again when he puts out the tried and tested 3-5-2 formation. A rather shaky looking Handanovic will start in goal with Alessandro Bastoni, Stefan de Vrij and Milan Skriniar forming the back three.

Stefano Sensi is fully recovered but it will be unlikely that he will start the game on the night. With no major injuries to worry about, Simone has enough options.

Ivan Perisic will hold onto his position on the left flank while Matteo Darmian looks set to replace Denzel Dumfries on the right. The duo will be expected to function as fullbacks, forming a back five when Inter are on the defensive.

In order to give their wingback space, the Nerazzurri midfield will need to win the battle in the centre of the field. Marcelo Brozovic will be asked to do the dirty work, freeing up Nicolo Barella and Hakan Calhanoglu to move forward.

Edin Dzeko and Lautaro Martinez will lead the line. The veteran striker was the difference-maker off the bench against Sassuolo last time around. He continues to be an inspired signing for the champions.

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

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Key Stats

  • Lazio are unbeaten in their last 16 home games in the league, winning 14 of them. This is their best run at home since they went 22 games unbeaten in 2002.
  • Curiously of Lazio’s 14 games unbeaten streak, 11 of them came under current Inter boss Simone Inzaghi who was earlier in charge of the home side.
  • Inter Milan are the highest scorers in Serie this season with 22 strikes in just seven games. This is their best scoring start to a season at a similar stage since 1950.
  • Lazio have conceded 12 goals in their seven games so far. Only Bologna have conceded more (15) in the top half of the Italian top flight.
  • 1-1 is the most frequent scoreline between Inter Milan and Lazio. (29 times in 78 matches)
  • Inter Milan can score their 100th goal against Lazio at their home turf if they break the deadlock on Saturday. They are currently on 99 strikes.
  • Inter have had 11 different scorers so far in Serie A this season. Only Chelsea have had more names (12).
  • With nine goals, Lazio are the league’s highest first-half scorers. Inter meanwhile are the highest second-half scorers with 14 goals.

Player to Watch

Nicolo Barella

The Italian international is a consistent performer for both club and country. He found the back of the net in Italy’s 2-1 win over Belgium in the UEFA Nations League third-place playoff. Capable of linking the midfield to the attack, he plays a key role in the Inter Milan system.

A dynamic presence in the middle of the park, him having a good day will boost Inter’s chances of winning. Barella has an eye for a pass and is able to thread through balls with minimal fuss.

As if that was not enough, the 24-year-old is well capable of driving forward with purpose and creating something out of nothing. A consistent performer for Inter, he appears to have reached a new level since the summer’s Euros.

Barella being chased by Liverpool, Barcelona among others (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

Nicolo Barella is Inter’s trump card in midfield. (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

Lucas will find it difficult to handle Barella should he get going and will have his hands full attempting to keep the Italian quiet. With the defensively solid Darmian set to start on the right flank, Barella can fearlessly move into channels without worrying about getting caught out on the counters. Double-teaming the Italian will also work against Lazio, giving the likes of  Perisic to breakthrough.

Prediction

Lazio 1-2 Inter Milan

Lazio is not an easy place to visit and Inter will be sure to receive a hostile reception. Simone is bound to be in the thick of it and will take to the dugout against the side he helped build.

His intimate knowledge of the opposition players could prove decisive on the day. The Italian is also tactically astute and is not afraid to change his system if it does not work. This flexibility could see him get the better of Sarri who is still finding his way at the Stadio Olimpico.

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