Coppa Italia fixtures are not always taken seriously by many Serie A clubs. These squads are usually filled with substitutes and academy players for a variety of reasons. The midweek fixtures allow players who do not feature regularly, time to play and teams also rest players who normally start. This was also the case for Inter as several starters were resting on the Nerazzurri bench allowing the likes of substitute players, Carrizo , Andreolli , Kuzmanovic, and Mudingayi to play. Mazzarri may have also used this opportunity to evaluate some of the players as well as assessing the overall needs of the squad in light of the January transfer window.
Risk and Reward. As Inter's starting lineup included several substitutes, would resting players in the starting XI and evaluating those players who may be on their way out be a reward that is worth the risk?
While substitutes, resting tired legs, and player evaluations may have influenced the squad selection, with Inter having won four out of the last nine Coppa Italia titles in recent years, winning was on the minds' of the Nerazzurri players. With the recent loss against Lazio fresh on the players' minds, it would be imperative to take away a victory today to try to erase the defeat from earlier this week.
Would Inter bounce back from the loss earlier this week to secure a much needed victory away to Udinese? Considering Inter's successful form in recent Coppa Italia competitions, could the Nerazzurri continue this trend of winning or would an inconsistent performance plagued with injuries rear its ugly head?
Official Lineups from the Inter site:
Inter XI (3-5-1-1): Carrizo, Zanetti (Alvarez 15' second half), Andreolli, Kovacic (Botta 36' second half), Guarin, Campagnaro, Mudingayi (Palacio 1' second half), Kuzmanovic, Milito, Samuel, Nagatomo.
Unused substitutes: Handanovic, Castellazzi, Jonathan, Juan Jesus, Cambiasso, Ranocchia, Ronaldo.
Coach: Walter Mazzarri
Udinese XI (3-4-2-1): Kelava, Allan, Danilo, Badu, Domizzi, Nico Lopez (Pereyra 31' second half), Widmer, Gabriel Silva, Pinzi, Maicosuel (Fernandes 44' second half), Heurtaux.
Unused substitutes: Scuffet, Naldo, Bubnjic, Basta, Di Natale, Milnar, Jadson, Douglas, Lazzari, Zielinski.
Coach: Francesco Guidolin
Officials: Calvarese, Ghiandai, Bianchi, Orsato
Inter started with a familiar 3-5-1-1 formation with Carrizo in goal and a 3 man backline of Andreolli, Samuel, and Campagnaro; a five man midfield consisting of Zanetti, Guarin, Mudingayi, Kuzmanovic, and Nagatomo; and an offensive attack with Kovacic slightly in back of Milito. (Note: this was Milito's first start from his recent injury).
The opening minutes of the match began as both sides tried to establish an offensive presence. While this was only a Coppa Italia match that would advance the victor into the quarterfinals the teams were quite serious as the intensity on the pitch reflected a desire to win by all.
Initial back and forth by the two clubs gave way to an Udinese offensive onslaught. Interisti hearts stood still for a few moments as the home side attacked the Inter goal with blistering balls by Lopez and Badu in the 6th, 8th, and 9th minutes of the match. Fortunately, the balls went wide and Inter escaped this round of the Udinese attack.
Just as the young Croatian international was starting to get his feet on the ball, Kovacic was awarded a harsh yellow card in the 21st minute for a foul on Domizzi which may have subdued his performance.
Inter's first shot on target was in the form of a volley by Milito in the 24th minute which Udinese goalkeeper Kelava handled easily.
After withstanding the initial Udinese attack the Inter players seemed to settle down and began to launch their own attack on the home side's goal. This offensive approach by the Nerazzurri was short-lived as Udinese finally found the back of the net in the 32nd minute of play as Lopez crossed the ball into Maicosuel who easily scored.
The Nerazzurri seemed to struggle to maintain ball possession and the absence of Inter defensive midfielder Cambiasso was definitely felt as Udinese dominated the attack.
Inter tried their own counter attack as Kuzmanovic had a marvelous attempt at goal but his shot hit the post and ricocheted out and Mudingayi's follow up shot was deflected wide.
Milito was pulled back by Domizzi in the 38th minute but no penalty was called. While many may have seen this as a clear penalty, unfortunately, the referee did not. It seems Inter's league streak of not receiving a penalty call has followed the Nerazzurri into the Coppa Italia competition.
Here is a picture of the non-call in question via @danmari83
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Questo è rigore 24 ore al giorno, 365 giorni all'anno, dal Polo Nord all'Equatore, fatta eccezione per Udine <a href="http://t.co/PROrSXjSmt">pic.twitter.com/PROrSXjSmt</a></p>— Daniele Mari (@danmari83) <a href="https://twitter.com/danmari83/statuses/421385249184960513">January 9, 2014</a></blockquote>
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The half drew to a close and Inter trailed home side Udinese by a score line of 1-0.
While the 3-5-1-1 had been effective at the beginning of Mazzari's tenure, it seems that a lone striker tends to become disconnected from the rest of the team as the game endures. The Inter boss sensed that change was needed and at the half, made an offensive substitution and change to his formation in search of an important equalizer.
Palacio came on as a halftime substitute in the 1st minute of the second half as he paired with Argentine strike partner Milito to help the Inter attack. Mazzarri changed his formation to a 3-5-2 and both Kovacic and Guarin were further back in the midfield.
The new 3-5-2 formation seemed to wake up the Inter attack but in the 10th minute, the Udinese counter attack almost made the Nerazzurri pay as Carrizo almost got caught as he came out of his goal to thwart the home side.
Alvarez entered the match in the 15th minute for Zanetti to create more offensive pressure in the attack.
While Inter tried to gain greater ball possession, Udinese seemed content to defend and foul the Nerazzurri players and yellow cards were issued to the home side in the 11th, 15th, 20th, and 27th minutes. Udinese willingly fouled Inter players but unfortunately the Nerazzurri could not take advantage of any of these opportunities. The home side's second half strategy was to counter attack.
The best chance for Inter to score was in the 43rd minute as Milito played a perfect ball to Guarin which went slightly wide. This was not the Nerazzurri's night and there was no reward for Inter as they were eliminated from the Coppa Italia, as Udinese advanced to the quarter finals of the competition with a final score of 1-0.
Aside from the obvious disappointment of defeat and the elimination from the Coppa Italia competition, there were some notable moments between Alvarez and Kovacic in the midfield. If these two young midfielders could partner up more often, this could be the winning formula that might be just what the Nerazzurri need.
Additionally, changing formations from a 3-5-1-1 to a 3-5-2 could also plague oppositional defenders with a healthy strike force of Milito and Palacio. The 3-5-1-1 tends to demonstrate an over reliance by the Inter attack that consists of long range shots or over the top balls to the lone striker which Inter's opponents seem to easily defend against. With the return of Milito from injury and as he continues to gain match fitness, oppositional defenders will have greater difficulty in defending the Inter attack.
Lastly, while Inter did not reap the return of a reward, the risk taken to play some of the substitute players may play in the benefit of the Nerazzurri as the January transfer market begins to heat up.
Inter have a chance to turn things around as they face Chievo Verona on Monday, January 13, 2014, at 21:00.
Udinese 1-0 Inter
First half: Maicosuel 32'
Second half: N/A