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Serie A Preview: Parma vs Inter

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The Nerazzurri look to strengthen their hold on fifth spot when they lock horns with Roberto Donadoni's men on Saturday…

Tullio M. Puglia

Fasten your seat belts ladies and gentlemen as the upcoming three-game stretch promises to feature some unexpected twists and turns.

Inter is set to tackle Parma, Napoli and Milan and the next 16 days will go a long way in determining whether this season will be considered a success.

The Nerazzurri are coming off their most impressive display in two months after brushing aside Sampdoria 4-0 and will be in high spirits ahead of the crunch clash with Parma, which holds major Europa League implications.

A win will see the Beneamata extend their lead to five points over the Gialloblu while Roberto Donadoni's men will leapfrog Inter with a victory.

The two teams battled to an entertaining 3-3 draw in their first meeting at the Meazza in December, but this one will be hard-pressed to exceed that thriller seeing as there's so much at stake.

Parma has come back to earth since its 17-game unbeaten streak came to an end against Juventus and has secured only one victory in its last five matches.

The hosts seem vulnerable, but Inter has had trouble putting opponents away who have been ripe for the picking.

Here's to hoping that the Nerazzurri have turned a corner after the Samp game and are ready to shed their training wheels for good and ride off with their destiny in their own hands.

THE VITALS

Date: Saturday, April 19

Time: 9:00 AM, EST

Venue: Ennio Tardini

BATTLE DOSSIER

Inter Probable Formation: 3-4-2-1: Handanovic; Campagnaro, Samuel, Rolando; D'Ambrosio, Hernanes, Cambiasso, Nagatomo; Kovacic, Palacio; Icardi

Parma Probable Formation: 4-3-3: Mirante; Cassani, Lucarelli, Paletta, Molinaro; Gargano, Marchionni, Parolo; Biabiany, Schelotto, Cassano

Unavailable For Duty: Juan Jesus is out for the rest of the season with a torn MCL while Jonathan is still struggling with a muscle injury. Andrea Ranocchia will miss the weekend's festivities due to an accumulation of yellow cards.

Operation Sour Parmalat: To create some distance between us and the fast-approaching enemy army in the mad dash for a small piece of the prize in Europe.

Enemy Of The State: There are four ex-Inter operatives working for the enemy with three of them chomping at the bit to exact a measure of revenge against the Nerazzurri. Walter Gargano, Jonathan Biabiany and Ezequiel Schelotto did not enjoy fruitful stints at San Siro and weren't considered Inter material while Antonio Cassano loves the Beneamata with all of his heart, but holds a grudge against Mazzarri.

Fear Factor: 7.5: Parma is as scary as running into a handful of your old buddies at a house party after you kicked them out of your group of friends for being too lame and now they tight with one of your old adversary's from the past. Things are probably going to get ugly.

Medal Of Honor: As long as Mauro Icardi keeps scoring on the pitch then I could care less what he does in his time off it. It's none of my business and my only concern is that he continues his purple patch and fires Inter into Europe. 'Kid Icarus' is a one-man revolution at the moment, decimating opposing defenders and growing in confidence by the week.

Likely Outcome: Parma has one too many former Inter players with grudges to bear for my liking, not to mention ex-Milan midfielder Donadoni, who went from having one of the most iconic afros in the sport to morphing into a sleazy Las Vegas magician. I'll be ecstatic with a draw.