Inter Milan will be looking to get back to winning ways when they host Cagliari at San Siro on Sunday in the 2021/22 Serie A.

Defending champions Inter Milan will look to continue the defence of their Serie A title when they take on Cagliari at San Siro this weekend.

Simone Inzaghi’s side fell to a disappointing 2-0 loss to Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League. It was the lone blow in a series of positive results as Inter put up some really good performances both domestically and in Europe in recent weeks. They are two points off the top of the table and also have qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League. Despite the midweek defeat, there are enough reasons to be optimistic for the Nerazzurri.

In Cagliari, they have the perfect opponents to get back to winning ways. Gli Isolani are currently 18th in Serie A are well entrenched in the fight for survival. They have won just one of their 16 league games this season and have the joint second-worst attack. There are few worse times for them to play a team such as Inter.

What offers them some respite will be the defence, which has held up decently. Cagliari have drawn their last four games thanks to resolute rearguard actions. Inter meanwhile are excellent upfront despite losing Romelu Lukaku in the summer. Inzaghi’s side have scored 94 goals in 2021 in Serie A, a tally they have bettered just once in their history, all the way back in 1950.

The Nerazzurri are coming into their own as the season proceeds and put up a real show last weekend against AS Roma. However, they still have a long way to go before they can be counted amongst Europe’s best teams. It is a different story domestically, and Cagliari could be given a reminder of it on Sunday.

The Hard Tackle takes a look at how both sides could line up on the night and what tactics might be employed.

Team News & Tactics

Inter Milan

Inzaghi’s side have done well to close the gap at the top of the Serie A standings following a good run of results of late. They are unbeaten in eight Serie A games, winning six and drawing two in the process.

The Nerazzurri will be without Joaquin Correa, Andrea Ranocchia and Matteo Darmian on the night. However, it is not all bad news as Dutch star Stefan de Vrij is expected to return to action following his injury while on international duty with the Netherlands in November. It spells bad news for Cagliari, who are having a difficult time as it is in finding the back of the net.

Inzaghi looks set to deploy his side in the tried and tested 3-5-2 formation. Samir Handanovic seems set to start in goal with Milan Skriniar, Stefan de Vrij and Alessandro Bastoni bringing up the rearguard.

The impressive Marcelo Brozovic is an automatic starter when fit and can be considered undroppable given this season’s performances. The responsibility to anchor the midfield will again fall to him. The Croatian’s presence in the middle of the park will give the necessary freedom to Hakan Calhanoglu and Nicolo Barella to push forward.

With the central midfielders picking themselves, the onus to provide width will fall to Ivan Perisic and Denzel Dumfries. The former will be looking to continue his hot streak of form, while the latter will be keen to turn his fortunes around.

Lautaro Martinez is the Nerazzurri’s lynchpin in attack and will start up top. He could be joined by Chilean ace Alexis Sanchez who has made some good late cameos. It will give Inter the chance to rest Edin Dzeko and even bring him off the bench if necessary.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, de Vrij, Bastoni; Dumfries, Barella, Brozovic, Calhanolgu, Perisic; Sanchez, Martinez

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Cagliari

It has been a difficult season for Cagliari, who face a real fight to escape relegation. While they have shown better defensive showings of late, the attack disappoints. They will have to play out of their skins to match up against Inter, who can be glorious on their day.

To compound matters for Walter Mazzarri, he will be without a slew of players for the game, as Marko Rog, Paolo Farago, Sebastian Walukiewicz, Kevin Strootman and Nahitan Nandez miss out. It is one thing to face Inter but another to turn up against them at the San Siro.

A former Nerazzurri manager, Mazzarri is keen to take the game to his opponents on the night. The 60-year-old looks set to continue with his 3-5-2 formation as well. Boris Radunovic looks likely to start in goal, with Luca Ceppitelli, Andrea Carboni and Martin Caceres forming the defensive line.

Raoul Bellanova and Dalbert will have their work cut out on the wings. Both players will be tasked with keeping the likes of Perisic and Dumfries quiet. The latter could be more problematic should Barella also get involved on the right flank.

The central midfield trio of Alessandro Deiola, Razvan Marin and Alberto Grassi will need to nullify their Inter counterparts to stand any chance in the game. Brozovic has been a constant thorn for opposition sides of late, and Cagliari should aim to keep him quiet on the night.

Keita Balde and Joao Pedro will be up against a formidable defence and could be in for a difficult night. The duo could isolate themselves should Cagliari come off second best in the midfield battle. A lot of the visitors’ attacking threat will be gauged by how the duo performs.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Radunovic; Caceres, Ceppitelli, Carboni; Bellanova, Grassi, Marin, Deiola, Dalbert; Pedro, Balde

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Key Stats

  • Inter Milan have won 21 of their last 23 games at home in Serie A.
  • Inter Milan have scored 94 goals in Serie A in 2021. They have bettered the tally just once in their history (1950).
  • Inter Milan have won more home league games in 2021 than any other side in Europe’s top five leagues.
  • Inter Milan have won eight of the last ten games between the two sides.
  • Cagliari have drawn their previous four games. They have the second-worst attack in Serie A this season.

Player to Watch

Marcelo Brozovic

Transfer News: Tottenham, Manchester United offered chance to sign Marcelo Brozovic.

The Croatian has been in stellar form for Inter Milan this season.  (Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images)

Marcelo Brozovic again takes the cake as Inter Milan’s player to watch. This season, the Croatian international has been in sublime form, setting the stage for his teammates to pick oppositions apart. With his contract at San Siro winding down, he continues to offer Inter Milan a timely refresher on his abilities.

Brozovic is the midfield conductor who helps the Nerazzurri win the battle in the middle of the park. The very fact that Barella, Calhanoglu and Perisic can get forward is because of the safety net that the Croat provides. A good outing for him on the night should translate into an easy win for Inter.

Prediction

Inter Milan 3-0 Cagliari

Inzaghi’s side goes into the game not just as overwhelming favourites but also with a point to prove following their midweek humbling. Playing in front of their home crowd, the Nerazzurri will be keen to put their visitors to the sword and secure all three points on the night.

Player for player, Inter have the better squad. Cagliari also have some of their best players, such as Nandez, unavailable. Anything other than three points for the defending champions can be considered a shock.

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