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Match Preview: Empoli vs. Inter Milan – Shaqiri set to make Inter debut Saturday

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Kovacic and Ranocchia are back from suspension, and Xherdan Shaqiri hopes to make his Inter Milan debut in Saturday's match against Empoli.

Bleacher Report

Match Facts:

Date: Saturday January 17, 2015

Time: 12:00pm ET / 18:00 CET

Venue: Stadio Carlo Castellani

After Inter Milan's excellent 3-1 win on Sunday against Genoa, manager Roberto Mancini has expressed that the club is "on the right path", but that there is still "room for improvement" ahead of this weekend's clash in Tuscany against Empoli.

Saying the club are on the right path is valid, as the Nerazzurri are currently on a five-match unbeaten run in Serie A competition and have seen their ranking climb from 12th to 9th after getting results from their last few matches.

On the flip side, Serie A minnows Empoli are winless in their last six matches, and currently sit at 15th position only three points clear of the drop zone. The Tuscan side's recent home form has not been stellar either, as the Azzurri have only managed to earn 10 out of a possible 27 points from matches played at Stadio Carlo Castellani this season.

Empoli manager Maurizio Sarri's side will be without Portuguese defender Mario Rui, who is serving a one-match suspension this weekend.

Likewise, Inter will be missing Juan Jesus, who is still out serving a multi-match suspension after Chiellini's face ran into his elbow during the Juventus thriller in Turin earlier this month.

And according to the Gazzetta dello Sport, Kovacic will likely watch the start of this match from the bench after returning from a suspension himself. It is also likely that Shaqiri will make his Inter debut in this match (just not as a starter) and will be given the chance to demonstrate his versatility if brought on at some point during the match.

Shaqiri has expressed his desire to perform consistently for Inter, saying:

"I will try to make the most of my time at Inter. I need to play consistently in order to prove how much I'm worth"

Let's hope, as supporters, we get that chance to see Shaqa-Khan show his stuff. And with all that, here are your projected starting lineups for the Empoli vs. Inter match:

PROJECTED STARTING XIs

Empoli: Sepe; Hysaj, Rugani, Tonelli, Laurini; Croce, Valdifiori, Vecino; Verdi; Maccarone, Pucciarelli

Inter: Handanovic, Campagnaro, Vidic, Ranocchia, D'Ambrosio; Medel, Guarin; Palacio, Hernanes, Podolski; Icardi

(note: projected lineups created based on information from Sports Mole and Forza Italian Football)