Serie A champions Inter Milan will be keen to get back to winning ways when they take on Empoli in the Coppa Italia Round of 16 at the San Siro on Wednesday.

Defending Italian champions Inter Milan will be looking to get back to winning ways when they face Empoli at home in the Coppa Italia on Wednesday evening.

The Nerazzurri are top of the Serie A table and have already qualified for the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League. Given the good run of form they are on now, one would not bet against Simone Inzaghi’s side making the last eight of the cup.

Inter are coming off what can be seen as two points dropped against Atalanta at the weekend. However, since they won the Supercoppa Italiana last week, one can excuse the Nerazzurri for their general lack of energy against La Dea.

Inzaghi made several changes to the side at the weekend and could be set to recall some of his big guns this week. Lautaro Martinez was given a much-needed breather and only came off the bench against Atalanta. He looked sharp and will be in contention to start on Tuesday.

Inter have made the quarter-finals of the Coppa Italia for seven seasons in a row but have failed to go all the way in the competition. The last time the Nerazzurri won the trophy was in 2010-11, an era ago. Inzaghi has arguably the most balanced team in the land, and it will not come as a surprise if they break their decade-long duck in the competition this season.

Empoli, for their part, are in a comfortable position in the 11th spot in Serie A, but have proven themselves to be inconsistent. Inter should, however, have no problem getting the better of their opponents should they turn up on the night. Anything less than an Inter win will be seen as a shock.

The Hard Tackle looks at how the Italian giants will line up on the night and what tactics they might employ.

Team News & Tactics

Inter Milan

Samir Handanovic was the hero at the weekend as he helped keep Atalanta at bay. Inter played the entire 120 minutes last week against Juventus, and it appeared to have taken a toll on some of their players.

The Nerazzurri were lethargic against Atalanta and even the usually reliable Marcelo Brozovic looked visibly tired. Playing just three days later, Inzaghi will do well to ring in the changes and afford some of his players a well-earned rest.

With a full-strength squad to choose from, the former Lazio coach will be expected to use his side’s strength in depth to negotiate the tie. He will most likely persist with his tried and tested 3-5-2 system and go with Handanovic in goal. Stefan de Vrij was benched at the weekend and looks set to return to the lineup alongside Andrea Ranocchia and Alessandro Bastoni.

Denzel Dumfries will likely replace Matteo Darmian at right-wing back, while Federico Dimarco could get a rare start on the other flank. The trio of Roberto Gagliardini, Arturo Vidal and Matias Vecino could form the bedrock in a much-changed midfield. While Brozovic and Ivan Perisic have both proved invaluable this season, the draw against Atalanta showed that they could do with a rest.

Both Alexis Sanchez and Edin Dzeko were extremely disappointing at the weekend and should make way for Joaquin Correa and Lautaro Martinez. While a much-changed outfit, Inter still have enough quality in their ranks to put Empoli to the sword.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Handanovic; Ranocchia, de Vrij, Bastoni; Dumfries, Vidal, Vecino, Gagliardini, Dimarco; Correa, Martinez

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Empoli

Empoli have taken to the Italian top-flight like a fish to water and are comfortably placed to break into the top half of the table. They have been impressive this season, although a tad inconsistent.

While Inter go into the game as favourites, Empoli have shown themselves capable of pulling one out of the hat when needed. The Nerazzurri will be well served by going into the game with a professional mindset.

The Gli Azzurri will be without full-back Fabiano Parisi who is recovering from a hamstring injury. He will join midfielder Nicolas Haas who is also sidelined with an injury for the immediate future. Mattia Viti, however, is back from suspension and could feature on the night.

Aurelio Andreazzoli’s side have been excellent in attack this season and average more than a goal a match — not bad for a team who only gained promotion to the top flight last summer. While they are impressive in attack, their lack of a dependable rearguard is equally worrying. No other top-flight team has outscored Inter this season, and the Nerazzurri attack could have a field day should Empoli leave themselves open at the back.

Empoli are likely to form up in their proven 4-3-1-2 system with Samir Ujkani in goal. The back four will comprise of Petar Stojanovic, Simone Romagnoli, Mattia Viti and Riccardo Marchizza. The midfield trio will consist of Filippo Bandinelli, Szymon Zurkowski and Kristjan Asllani, who have all been subject to rotation this season.

Nedim Bajrami looks set to be the creator-in-chief from midfield and will play behind the front two of Patrick Cutrone and Andrea La Mantia, who certainly packs a punch and could cause Inter problems if they are not alert. It promises to be a game that could flow from end to end and is likely to be an interesting battle of wits where the defence could decide the winner.

Probable Lineup (4-3-1-2): Ujkani; Stojanovic, Romagnoli, Viti, Marchizza; Zurkowski, Asllani, Bandinelli; Bajrami; Cutrone, La Mantia

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Key Stats

  • Inter Milan have won the Coppa Italian seven times. Only Juventus (14) and AS Roma (9) have won it more.
  • Empoli have never won the competition before. However, they did go all the way in the Coppa Italia Serie C in 1995-96.
  • Empoli have the joint third-worst defence in the Italian top flight this season. So far, only the bottom two sides in Genoa and Salernitana have conceded more goals.
  • On the other hand, Inter Milan are the top scorers in Serie A and have appeared potent more often than not.
  • Inter Milan and Empoli have met 17 times before, with the Nerazzurri coming out triumphant 15 times and losing just once. Empoli have, in fact, never defeated Inter at the San Siro.

Player To Watch

Lautaro Martinez

In demand. (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

The star striker. (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

The Argentine came on in the second half against Atalanta and looked determined to make a difference. Martinez was sharp and looked like a man on a mission. Unfortunately, he had little to no time to make a difference on the field.

He is expected to start this time around and will have the opportunity to get himself on the scoresheet. He is among the best forwards in the league and can cause even the best of defences some serious problems. With Edin Dzeko likely to be rested, the 24-year-old Martinez will be expected to provide the creative spark and lead the line on the night.

It will come as no surprise if all of Inter’s best moves of the night go through the Argentine superstar.

Prediction

Inter Milan 2-1 Empoli

With a much-changed Inter side likely to take to the field, Empoli have a good opportunity to catch the home team off guard early in the game. Just how well the hosts can maintain their shape and discover the cohesion could help decide how the tie pans out.

Man to man, the home side is the better team and will be expected to seize the initiative and take the game to Empoli. While the Champions League could be a bridge too far, Inter have every chance of completing the domestic double this season. With just four wins separating them from a first Coppa Italia title since 2011, Inzaghi’s men will be motivated to see the game through and keep their unbeaten run in Italy going.

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