Inter Milan will look to consolidate their advantage at the top of the Serie A table when they take on struggling Venezia at San Siro on Saturday.

The defending Serie A champions had to dig deep against Empoli midweek in the Coppa Italia clash but eventually came out winners in the closely contested tie at the San Siro. While it might not have been easy, keeping the winning habit going will be key as they approach the business end of the season.

This weekend, Simone Inzaghi’s side returns to league action when they take on relegation-threatened Venezia at home. The Nerazzurri dropped two points last weekend against Atalanta but were handed a welcome reprieve when title challengers AC Milan suffered a surprise loss to Spezia.

Inter will be keen to avoid such a result and instead pull away in their efforts to defend the Serie A title. A win on the night will take the Nerazzurri to 53 points, five ahead of the Rossoneri. With games coming thick and fast, Inzaghi’s side will also have to fight off fatigue in their efforts to continue their dominance of the domestic game.

The Inter boss rang in the changes for the midweek clash against Empoli, but the performance on the night made it clear that the club’s reserves are not at the same level as the first XI. The disparity becomes all the more clear when several first-teamers were brought off the bench and helped Inter retake the initiative on the field.

Inzaghi’s decision to rest the majority of his first team will ensure his side is fresh for the weekend’s clash. Venezia are currently in the 17th spot, one place above the relegation zone. While they hold a two-point lead over 18th placed Cagliari and have a game in hand, it is difficult to see them take any points from the defending Serie A champions.

Should Inter perform to their best, the game should be little more than a formality where the home side come away with all three points. Anything otherwise will come as a shock given the recent form of both teams. This is the last league clash before next week’s international break, and Inter will be keen to bow out with a win.

The COVID-19 outbreak within the Venezia squad could, however, play spoilsport. The club released a statement earlier today claiming that the match will go ahead unless the situation becomes untenable. Five of the 25 players who were named in the squad tested positive. For now, the game appears to be on.

The Hard Tackle looks at how both teams could line up on the night and what tactics they might deploy.

Team News & Tactics

Inter Milan

Joaquin Corea limped off after just five minutes against Empoli and looks set to miss the game at the weekend. Inzaghi has an otherwise full squad to choose from in what will be the team’s last match before the year’s first international break.

The Nerazzurri have played 120 minutes twice in their last three games, and the fatigue has been visible in their previous two matches against Atalanta and Empoli. Inzaghi rested most of his first XI against the latter, and the difference in quality was visible for all to see.

The defending champions look set to return to winning ways in Serie A and could welcome back several of their top stars for the game. Given the disparity between both sides, it should prove to be a routine three points for the home side. Inzaghi’s men can extend their lead at the top of the Serie A table to five points should they defeat Venezia. It will put them in a strong position ahead of the Milan derby next month.

Inter look set to keep their proven 3-5-2 formation that has brought them much joy this season. Samir Handanovic was impressive against Atalanta and looks set to return to the lineup for the game. He will be protected by the reliable back three of Milan Skriniar, Stefan de Vrij and Alessandro Bastoni.

Denzel Dumfries and Ivan Perisic looks set to start the game as wingbacks and will add much to the home side’s prowess on the flanks. Their ability to perform a two-way role on the wings coupled with the trio of Marcelo Brozovic, Nicolo Barella and Hakan Calhanoglu in the middle of the park hands Inter the advantage in the midfield battle.

Edin Dzeko could be restored to the starting XI alongside Lautaro Martinez after coming off the bench against Empoli. Stefano Sensi was the hero in midweek, but the Italian ace is unlikely to start and will have to settle for a position on the bench.

Probable lineup (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skiniar, De Vrij, Bastoni; Dumfries, Barella, Brozovic, Calhanoglu, Perisic; Dzeko, Martinez

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Venezia

The minnows are enduring a difficult season and are just two points off the relegation zone. However, they boast a decent record against Inter and have only defeated Fiorentina more times in Serie A.

Paolo Zanetti’s men have curiously played against Atalanta and Empoli in their last two games, the same two teams Inter faced in their previous two fixtures. I Lagunari are also dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak, and it remains to be seen if there will be any late absentees in their squad.  Sergio Romero, Ridgeciano Haps and Dennis Johnsen are injured while Michael Svoboda is suspended. Meanwhile, Tyronne Ebuehi is away at the Africa Cup of Nations.

At the moment, Venezia have 15 confirmed COVID cases of which eight players and manager Zanetti also make the list. Should the game go ahead, they look likely to deploy in a 4-3-3 formation.

Luca Lezzerrini is set to start in goal behind a back four Cristian Molinara, Pietro Ceccaroni, Mattia Caldara and Chelsea loanee Ethan Ampadu. The midfield three will consist of Gianluca Busio, Antonio Vacca and Michael Cuisance. The front three will likely consist of David Okereke, Thomas Henry and Mattia Aramu. New signing Nani impressed in his debut cameo and could also start the game should the visitors find themselves short of options.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Lezzerrini; Molinara, Ceccaroni, Caldara, Ampadu; Busio, Vacca, Cuisance; Okereke, Henry, Aramu

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Key Stats

  • Venezia have defeated Inter Milan six times in their 25 top-flight matches. They have only beaten Fiorentina more times (10) in Serie A.
  • Inter Milan boasts a good home record against Venezia and have defeated them nine times in 12 meetings. The minnows have a worse away record only to Juventus (10 losses).
  • Venezia have not beaten Inter Milan away from home since 1943 when they secured a 4-1 win.
  • Inter Milan have not lost a home game in Serie A since October 2020. They are currently on a 27 game unbeaten streak (W23 D4) at the San Siro.
  • Inter Milan and Venezia are at opposing ends of the form table when one considers the last eight Serie A games. The former has picked up 22 points while the latter picked up just three points in the same duration. No other club has picked up fewer points than Venezia during that timeframe.
  • Inter Milan have scored 51 goals so far in Serie A and are the league’s top scorers this season. Meanwhile, Venezia have found the back of the net just 19 times and have only outscored bottom-placed Salernitana in the league.

Player to Watch

Marcelo Brozovic

Marcelo Brozovic is a man in demand (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

Marcelo Brozovic is a key player for Inter Milan. (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

Matias Vecino replaced Marcelo Brozovic in the starting lineup for the Coppa Italia clash against Empoli earlier in the week. The Uruguayan’s performance once again underlined the difference Brozovic makes in the Inter midfield.

The Croatian’s ability to steady things in the middle of the park and distribute the ball brings about a calmness that permeates to the rest of Inzaghi’s side. The linchpin that connects the defence to the attack, the 29-year-old has a critical role in the Nerazzurri system. Having received a breather against Empoli, it is now time to return to the first XI and resume his dominant presence in midfield.

While Venezia is unlikely to win the midfield battle, Brozovic’s presence will make the home side’s efforts easier. Inzaghi will be well advised to play his best players ahead of the international break and continue his side’s good momentum in the games to come.

Prediction

Inter Milan 3-0 Venezia

The difference between both sides is massive, and they are currently occupying different ends of the form table spread out over the last eight Serie A games. Inzaghi’s side has looked fatigued over the last couple of weeks but has the necessary ammo to see off a poor Venezia side.

Lautaro Martinez, in particular, has gone three games without scoring a goal and will be itching to get back to the scoreboard. The win should be nothing short of a formality for the defending champions with the big guns back.

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