Date: Sunday, January 10th, 2016
Time: 06:30 am ET/ 12:30 CET
Venue: Stadio Giuseppe Meazza; Milan, Italy
2016 started in the best way possible for Inter, earning three points with their usual result. But if the ninth 1-0 of the season was enough to maintain first for at least another week, what happened on the field suggested that there is still a lot of work to do if the Nerazzurri want to be in the Scudetto contention until the end of this season.
It's hard to find positive things in Wednesday's win. The only battle Inter won, statistically, was ball possession, but if we look deeper into the numbers they lost that one too. In fact Empoli kept the ball for 21 minutes while Inter had it for 23 minutes, but if the Nerazzurri mostly possessed it in the defensive half (13 minutes), the opponents had it more in their offensive half (12 minutes) allowing them to shoot 10 more shots than Inter.
The pictures below show Inter player's average position during the match against Empoli, and it's pretty obvious looking at it that they spent more time in their half trying to defend their goal than actually trying to create dangers to the opposition.
This Sunday Mancini will have to prepare a match against a team "which is very similar to Empoli" as he said during the pre-game press conference, so it will be very important for his men to avoid the mistakes made against the Tuscans and that could have cost them the win. The Neroverdi, despite currently occupying the sixth spot, are in a bit of a slump lately having collected just 6 points in their last 5 games with one win, three draws and one loss. The good thing about it is that they surely won't settle for anything less than three points tomorrow, and in order to achieve that they may concede something defensively, allowing Inter to play the ball more freely and create more goal-scoring chances than usual. On the other hand the Nerazzurri will have to prevent their opponents from playing on counter-attacks at all costs, since their forwards are extremely quick and dangerous in this type of play.
It's an important match - I know I say it every time, but it's true! - not only because a win will allow Inter to maintain the lead for one more week, but also because it could crown them Campioni d'Inverno, which is a meaningless title, I know. But in case you don't remember, last time this team "won" it was in the glorious 2009/10 season, the Triplete one and even if this year won't be as successful than that one, it could be the one that bring back Inter to where they belong, i.e. the Champions League.
Mancini surprised no one during the press conference today when he announced 5 players who will surely start the match against Sassuolo this Sunday, with the only unexpected name being Ivan Perisic, the assist-provider this Wednesday for Icardi's goal. The rest of the squad could see more changes since they played just 3 days ago and Mancio is known to be a coach who likes to reshape his team from match to match to keep his players' fitness level high and to make life more difficult to opponent's managers while preparing matches against his team.
Projected Starting XIs
Handanovic; D'Ambrosio, Miranda, Murillo, Nagatomo; Brozovic, Medel; Biabiany, Ljajic, Perisic; Icardi;
Consigli; Vrsaljko, Cannavaro, Acerbi, Peluso; Missiroli, Duncan; Magnanelli; Berardi, Defrel, Sansone;