An out of form Inter Milan side will welcome bottom-placed Salernitana as they look to get their Serie A title defence back on track.
Defending champions Inter Milan have endured a difficult few weeks that have seen them drop off both in Serie A and the UEFA Champions League. The Nerazzurri trail Liverpool 2-0 in the Champions League Round of 16, while they have failed to pull away in the defence of their league crown.
A major reason for this downturn in form has been an inability to find the back of the net. Simone Inzaghi’s side have gone over 400 minutes without scoring, and in Salernitana, they have the perfect opposition in the crosshairs. The bottom feeders have the worst defensive record in the Italian top flight and have conceded 56 goals in just 25 matches so far.
Thankfully for the Nerazzurri, despite their poor run of form, they still hold their Serie A fate in their own hands. Inter are currently in third spot, two points behind league leaders Napoli, and have a game in hand. Win all their games, and Inzaghi’s side will celebrate a second straight Scudetto.
Inter have an excellent record against teams in the lower half of the table, and they cannot afford to lose cheap points now. Anything short of a victory will not just keep the defending champions’ poor run going but also potentially hand them a dagger blow in the race for the Serie A title.
The Nerazzurri are currently on a winless run of five games and could do with some momentum going into next week’s trip to Anfield. Given the form Liverpool are in, the will need all the help they can get. For now, the focus will be on Salernitana, and The Hard Tackle looks at how both teams could line up on Friday night.
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Inter Milan have endured a difficult start to the year and are currently on a five-match winless streak. Playing against bottom-placed Salernitana certainly gives them the best opportunity to rectify just that.
At the very least, Inzaghi has his full squad available for selection and should not be short of options to pick his best XI. Whether he will go with the same side that played AC Milan earlier in the week or makes changes with an eye on the trip to Liverpool remains to be seen.
The likes of Arturo Vidal, Alexis Sanchez and Joaquin Correa could be pushing for a spot in the starting XI. The trio came off the bench against Milan and could stake a claim for a start on Friday. Sanchez, in particular, could be in with a shout to replace Lautaro Martinez, who is going through his worst goalscoring drought since joining the club.
Inzaghi is unlikely to deviate from his 3-5-2 formation and should play his strongest side, at least on form. While overturning the deficit against Liverpool might be a tall order, the Serie A title is still up for grabs, with Inter in the driving seat. The Nerazzurri will do well to protect the bird in hand rather than worry about the two in the bush.
Samir Handanovic is a sure starter in goal and will feature behind a back three of Milan Skriniar, Stefan de Vrij and Alessandro Bastoni. The trio of Marcelo Brozovic, Hakan Calhanoglu and Nicolo Barella has been not performing at its peak but is expected to keep their spots in the first XI.
Robin Gosens also returned to action against Milan, making his debut for the club. However, it might be too soon to risk him from the start, meaning Ivan Perisic will keep his spot at left wing-back. Denzel Dumfries offers more going forward than Matteo Darmian, and given their goal-shy form, it will not come as a surprise if Inzaghi prioritises attacking flair over defensive solidity. Especially so, given that Salernitana have the worst defence in the league.
Edin Dzeko is expected to start upfront with Lautaro Martinez in tow. Inter will be keen for the latter to rediscover his goalscoring touch, and Salernitana could hand him the perfect opportunity to do so.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, de Vrij, Bastoni; Dumfries, Barella, Brozovic, Calhanoglu, Perisic; Martinez, Dzeko
The minnows are currently ten points off safety and look likely to get relegated. Salernitana’s first season back in the top flight in 20 years has been rather disappointing. However, they have two games in hand over 17th placed Cagliari and could yet pull off a miraculous escape.
Davide Nicola’s appointment has seen them experience a slight upturn in fortunes, going unbeaten in the league in February. They are currently on a four-game unbeaten streak, drawing all matches in the process. Salernitana did, to their credit, put up a solid fight against AC Milan recently, earning themselves a point in the process. A repeat of that on Friday is unlikely to help either side.
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Veteran winger Franck Ribery is a serious doubt after being hospitalised with a head injury following a car crash. Meanwhile, Andrea Schiavone and Mamadou Coulibaly will also be unavailable for selection thanks to injuries.
Nicola is likely to stick to a 4-2-3-1 formation on the night. Luigi Sepe is expected to start in goal behind a back four of Pasquale Mazzocchi, Radu Dragusin, Federico Fazio and Luca Ranieri. Lassana Coulibaly is expected to partner with Ivan Radovanovic as a double pivot in midfield.
Simone Verdi looks set to start on the left, with Grigoris Kastanos occupying the other flank. Diego Perotti seems set to start as the attacking midfielder, playing behind Milan Djuric, who is expected to lead the line.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Sepe; Mazzocchi, Dragusin, Fazio, Ranieri; Coulibaly, Radovanovic; Kastanos, Perotti, Verdi; Djuric
- Inter Milan and Salernitana have faced off against each other five times in Serie A. None of the matches have ended in a draw, with Inter winning three times.
- Inter Milan have won ten of their 12 games against the teams currently in the bottom half of the table. The 83% win percentage is the highest among top-flight Italian teams this season.
- Salernitana have drawn their last four Serie A games. This is the longest run of draws achieved by a promoted team since Parma managed to tie five games on the spin in 2019.
- Inter Milan have lost their last two Serie A home games against AC Milan and Sassuolo. The last time they lost three such games in a row at home was in 2013.
- Salernitana have the worst attack and the worst defence in the Italian top flight this season. On the other hand, Inter boast of the best attack and the second-best defence in the league.
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The Croat has been one of Inter Milan’s best players this season and has been a key part of their success over the last few months. It is no coincidence that the team’s poor run of form coincides with his own.
Brozoivic’s ability to win back possession and recycle the ball was a key proponent of Inter winning the midfield battle and taking the game to their opponents. With the 29-year-old unable to pull the right strings, the Nerazzurri have lacked the initiative of late. A solid outing from Brozovic on the night will certainly give his side the impetus to go out and return to winning ways.
Inter Milan 2-0 Salernitana
The visitors have the worst away record in the league and have picked up just eight points from 13 games, losing nine of them in the process. While Inter’s recent form has been nothing to write home about, they do have enough quality in their ranks to make the difference on the night.
Salernitana will not make it easy, and the arrival of Nicola has infused in them a newfound tenacity. However, Simone Inzaghi’s side has no more room for error and should win the game comfortably enough.