Inter Milan will travel to Cagliari knowing very well that anything short of three points could mean kissing their chances of retaining the Scudetto goodbye.

Inter Milan will be riding high from the momentum brought about by their Coppa Italia win in the midweek against Juventus. Simone Inzaghi will hope that his side will put in a similar performance against a Cagliari side that is fighting to stave off relegation.

The Nerazzurri do not have their Serie A destiny in their own hands, but as long as they do their part, pressure will be applied on AC Milan who can not afford the slightest slipup. Just two points separate the arch-rivals at the top of the Serie A table with two games to go.

Inzaghi has already secured the Coppa Italia and the Supercoppa Italiana this season. Securing a Scudetto will cap off what has already been a successful debut season at the Giuseppe Meazza for the 46-year-old.

Cagliari, meanwhile, are fighting for their lives and are in the 18th spot, two points adrift of safety. They do, however, have a game in hand and will fight Inter to the bitter end to ensure their survival. Going up against a side fighting to stay up is not the ideal scenario for a Nerazzurri side that had to play 120 minutes midweek.

The onus will be on the visitors to seize the initiative early on and showcase the difference in quality between both sides. The Hard Tackle looks at how both sides could line up on the night and what tactics they might employ.

Team News & Tactics

Cagliari

Cagliari are two points from safety with two games to go. A win on Sunday night will take them above Salernitana to the 17th spot with one game to go. While both sides may be fighting for different things in the coming days, there is little to suggest that either team’s targets mean any less.

Cagliari parted ways with Walter Mazzarri a couple of weeks ago following a run of seven losses in eight games. Alessandro Agostini’s first game in charge saw the Italian side fight for their lives against Salernitana, earning themselves a 99th-minute equaliser. To claim they will drop off against Inter given what is at stake would be a foolhardy assumption.

Cagliari are likely to deploy in a 3-5-2 formation that will match Inter at least in terms of tactics. Alessio Cragno will start in goal behind a back three of Giorgio Altare, Matteo Lovato and Luca Ceppitelli.

Dalbert and Raoul Bellanova will start as the wing-backs and could have a busy night on their hands. Should the Cagliari duo step up, it could deeply impact Inter’s ability to hurt them on the wings. The trio of Alessandro Deiola, Alberto Grassi and Marko Rog will look to keep things simple in the middle of the park and starve Inter of time on the ball.

The onus to attack will be on the duo of Leonardo Pavoletti and Joao Pedro, who will lead the line. The duo could cause problems for the Inter defence if they get stuck in. Whether they will be allowed to do so or spend the night isolated up the field remains to be seen. Meanwhile, Boris Radunovic will miss out for the home side thanks to a suspension.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Cragno; Altare, Lovato, Ceppitelli; Dalbert, Deiola, Grassi, Rog, Bellanova; Pavoletti, Pedro

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Inter Milan

Inter Milan have momentum on their side but might have to deal with fatigue after a gruelling 120 minutes midweek against Juventus. However, with a fully fit squad at his disposal, Simone Inzaghi can make the changes necessary for his side to attack the game full-pelt.

The Nerazzurri boss is likely to keep some of his key players on the field and supplement the others so that there is no visible drop in quality. Inzaghi has patented the 3-5-2 formation at the Giuseppe Meazza and will hold true to his tactics.

Samir Handanovic is a sure starter in goal and will start behind a back three of Alessandro Bastoni, Stefan de Vrij and Danilo D’Ambrosio. Bastoni returned to action against Juventus and will hand Inter more options to use. It will also hand Milan Skriniar a much-needed breather.

Ivan Perisic has been the driving force behind Inter’s recent momentum and is sure to start in the left wing-back spot. He is likely to be partnered by Denzel Dumfries on the other flank. The former scored twice at the weekend and will be keen to keep his good run going.

The midfield three of Nicolo Barella, Hakan Calhanoglu and Marcelo Brozovic are likely to start again and grab the game by the scruff of the neck. Having Brozovic turn up will make it all the easier for the visitors to dictate proceedings.

Edin Dzeko has been in poor form and will likely be replaced by Joaquin Correa. Lautaro Martinez is, however, set to keep his spot in the first XI. Whether the Argentine will deliver on the night or make way for Alexis Sanchez remains to be seen.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Handanovic; Bastoni, De Vrij, D’Alessandro; Perisic, Calhanoglu, Brozovic, Barella, Dumfries; Correa, Martinez

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Key Stats

  • Inter Milan have won eight of their last ten games against Cagliari in Serie A.
  • Cagliari have tied more games against Inter Milan at home than any other side (18). However, only two of their last 13 meetings have ended in a draw.
  • Cagliari have not lost their last two games against Inter Milan that have been played on gameweek 37 or 38.
  • Cagliari have won just three home games this season. This is their joint-lowest tally in the Italian top flight.
  • Currently on 19 goals, Lautaro Martinez could become the sixth Inter Milan player in the club’s history to score 20 goals in a single Serie A season after Giuseppe Meazza, Sandro Mazzola, Antonio Angelillo, Ronaldo and Mauro Icardi.

Player To Watch

Ivan Perisic

The Croatian international is giving Inter a timely reminder of his talents and driving them towards a second straight Serie A title. At 33, Perisic is not getting any younger but continues to make the difference for Inter on the field.

With two goals and four assists in his last six Serie A games for Inter, Perisic is certainly in top gear at the right moment. He also scored twice against Juventus in the Coppa Italia final, handing Inter their first win in the competition since 2011. It is fair to say that should the Nerazzurri pip Milan to the Scudetto, Perisic will have had a role to play in it.

The game against Cagliari is likely to be hard-fought, and the margin for error narrows. Perisic’s ability to create something out of nothing and persevere through adversity makes him the likely player to make the difference on the night.

Prediction

Cagliari 1-2 Inter Milan

Both teams have much to play for, and it promises to be a hard-fought game. Cagliari’s tenacity and never say die attitude against Salernitana was a welcome relief from their resigned bouts of defeat that fans had come to see under Walter Mazzarri. However, this turnaround may have come a tad too late for Gli Isolani.

Inter not only have better quality players but also the momentum and title ambitions to drive them on. It will not be easy, but Simone Inzaghi’s men have the X-factor and individual game-winners who can get them over the line.

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