Date: Saturday, December 5, 2015
Time: 2.45pm ET / 20.45 CET
Venue: San Siro; Milan, Italy
With the exception of that infamous Champions League semi-final second leg against Barcelona back in 2010, it's hard to recall a defeat that has been accepted by Inter fans with anything like as much positivity as what met Monday's loss at the Stadio San Paolo. If anything, the 2-1 reverse suffered at the hands of
Gonzalo Higuain Napoli has paradoxically reinvigorated the enthusiasm around this new high-flying side, thanks to the commendable second-half performance from Roberto Mancini's side that so nearly earned us a draw, despite being in numerical inferiority. It was the kind of match that left both teams feeling that they might just be able to win this season's Scudetto after all - not to mention a sizeable proportion of their two fanbases.
Fail to beat an out-of-form Genoa on home turf however, and a mountainous chunk of that credit the players built up on Saturday will be lost. (I'm not saying that's fair, but that is how football works.) Inter may be 13 points further down the road than they were at this exact stage of last season, but there is still no time to relax for Mancini and co. as the chasing pack continue to hunt them down. Gian Piero Gasperini's side have collected a measly three draws from their seven matches on the road so far this season, and enter this next encounter off the back of a slightly embarrassing defeat at home to Carpi, so really this should be a comfortable three points for us. If we can continue to beat these slightly less star-studded sides with consistency, Champions League qualification is a fully achievable target for this season, because in that particular race it's these games that make the difference at the end. Not losing heroically against Napoli.
There are two things to consider before getting comfortable though. Firstly, Genoa are a bleeding hard side to play against even when they're not in blistering form, because of the hipster approach Gasperini takes to tactics and the obscene intensity his teams play with at the beginning of matches. And secondly, perhaps more importantly, we are Inter. When is anything really comfortable?
In what should come as a surprise to absolutely nobody by now, Inter's starting XI is set to change again. Mancini has decided to relegate Mauro Icardi to the substitutes bench again following his disappointing display at the San Paolo, with Stevan Jovetic replacing the captain up front in a 4-3-3 system. Alongside the Montenegrin should be Adem Ljajic, who is fully deserving of his place in the team after two sparkling performances in a row, while the identity of the third attacker is less clear. Ivan Perisic has returned to training after suffering from flu earlier in the week, but he is still likely to be given a rest and that means there could be space for Rodrigo Palacio to start against his former side. In midfield Felipe Melo will return, probably taking Gary Medel's spot in the centre, with Fredy Guarin and Marcelo #EpicBrozo-vic either side. Neither Davide Santon nor Geoffrey Kondogbia have recovered in time from their respective injuries to take part in Saturday's game, with Yuto Nagatomo the only other enforced absentee through suspension. Filling the void at left-back should be Alex Telles. And that's all fine. The one thing that concerns me is the prospect of Mancio trying to model his line-up on Saturday's opponents, as he has done for four consecutive matches now. That would mean Inter lining up in a 3-4-3 formation... which I don't wish to contemplate.
As for the visitors, Gian Piero Gasperini has four injury absences to contend with (Dzemaili, Marchese, Munoz, Tambe), but should still name a team that includes two former Inter players in Nicolas Burdisso and Diego Laxalt, with treble-winner Goran Pandev starting from the bench. (Of course Gasperini himself is a former Inter coach, but we don't talk about that.) In attack Genoa will be without top-scorer Leonardo Pavoletti, who is suspended after he wisely elbowed Riccardo Gagliolo in the face last weekend, but their star man Diego Perotti will be back from his own ban and could take up a false nine role.
Still, we're a big team now and people like Perotti don't scare us anymore. We'll be fine, right?
Inter (4-3-3): Handanovic; D'Ambrosio, Miranda, Murillo, Telles; Guarin, Melo, Brozovic; Palacio, Jovetic, Ljajic.
Genoa (3-4-3): Perin; Izzo, Burdisso, Ansaldi; Figueiras, Rincon, Tino Costa, Laxalt; Lazovic, Perotti, Gakpe.