After beating Udinese 4-0, Inter played hosts to Serie B side Cagliari in the Coppa Italia Round of 16. Though the Sardinian team is not playing in Italy's top flight this season, they got this far by knocking out Sassuolo so they deserved respect coming into this round.
This marked the beginning of Inter playing on multiple fronts this season so changes were expected (well, more changes than usual for Mancini so far). Mancini did not disappoint; Carrizo replaced Handanovic, the back four was composed of Montoya, Juan Jesus, D'Ambrosio (playing as centerback), and Nagatomo. The midfield was made of Medel, Kondogbia, and Brozovic and the attack was spearheaded by Biabiany, Palacio, and Manaj.
It was the away side that started brighter, their aggressive pressing caused the Inter players some problems early on. As the first half progressed, the home players got more of a foothold in the match and Cagliari's young keeper Alessio Cragno had to be alert to stop both Biabiany and Palacio in the span of about 4 minutes. A few minutes though Cragno had to pick the ball up out of his net. Juan Jesus sent in a cross and a slight deflection from Manaj saw Palacio able to tap the ball in from about six yards out. Towards halftime Cagliari had a good chance to level the scoreline, but Carrizo was equal to Giannetti's shot.
Six minutes into the second half Cagliari came inches away from scoring, Pisacane's flicked header bounced off the Inter crossbar. Manaj had a chance to double the lead but Cragno was too quick off his line for the young striker to get a shot off. The Nerazzurri were able to get their second goal soon after though. Brozovic was given way too much time and space outside the box and he curled in a basically identical goal to his strike against Udinese.
The second goal seemed to take most of the fight out of Cagliari and Inter cruised for a majority of the remaining 19 minutes. The home side got a third goal in the 81st minute, another Brozovic shot hit the post and Perisic was alert to tuck the rebound in the back of the net.
This match saw a number of positives for Mancini. Montoya had another good game and had great linkup play with Biabiany down the right flank. D'Ambrosio put in a decent shift and his appearance was a further indictment of Mancini's lack of faith in Ranocchia (part of me feels sorry for him and then I remember what happened the last time he played in the Coppa Italia...and in so many other cases). Kondogbia played pretty well too plus Palacio is back among the goalscorers. Manaj didn't have such a great performance but he is young and has time (though the impending arrival of Calleri might make him nervous).
The next round of the Coppa Italia will see Inter take on the winner of Napoli vs. Hellas Verona. Inter's final match of 2015 (as winter champions) is Sunday at home against Lazio.