Date: Sunday, March 6 2016
Time: 2:45 ET/ 20:45 CET
Venue: San Siro, Milan; Italy
Following the quite extraordinary and unexpected events of Wednesday night at San Siro, Inter arrive at this weekend's game with Palermo full of confidence and optimism that a season which had seemed all-but lost could in fact be revived at the eleventh hour. After the dismal defeat at the hands of the very same opponent three days previously the Coppa Italia performance against Juventus was exactly the shot in the arm our ailing campaign needed, with the players responding to Piero Ausilio's rallying call to put in their first complete display of the entire season, frightening the Old Lady to within an inch of her life before falling agonisingly short in the penalty shoot-out. It was a hugely encouraging and reassuring evening, in other words.
Unfortunately, for all the positives we can take from giving the Gobbis an emphatic kick up the backside, Wednesday night does not change the fact that we face a huge task to reclaim third place in Serie A, and cannot afford to drop any more silly points between now and May if we are to avoid another failed attempt at returning to the Champions League. Mancini said in his pre-game press conference on Saturday that people are acting as if Inter are bottom of the table, but if you were to look at the form guide then you would see we are in some sense, because 9 points from 9 games is the kind of form that gets teams relegated. The players' task against Palermo, therefore, is to demonstrate that what they produced in midweek was not just a flash in the pan, but in fact the start of a more sustained revival.
On paper this would appear to be one of the most straightforward victories we will pick up all season, with the Sicilians winless in six outings and having conceded 18 goals in their last eight, but we could only draw with them back in October (a result I am still annoyed about) and Beppe Iachini's team's need for points is just as great as ours, so maximum application and concentration will be required. They are a side whose confidence is completely shot at the moment, having played with fear in their eyes for 90 minutes against Bologna last time out - and possess precious little attacking threat beyond the sporadic inventions of Franco Vazquez (who should be fit to start) and penalty box nous of Alberto Gilardino - but I still don't see this being an easy win. They will most likely set up in Iachini's favoured 3-5-2 system and look to deny us any space whatsoever around their box, which means we are going to need both patience and ideas to make the breakthrough, and we haven't always had both of those attributes this year. If we do have them, this game will represent the perfect opportunity for Eder to find his first goal in an Inter shirt, against the man who managed both him and Icardi when they were playing together at Sampdoria. Let's hope the law of the ex strikes again on Sunday night.
If the players attack the match with the same amount of aggression and intensity that they produced against Juve, we cannot go wrong, but based on previous league displays there's no guarantee that that will happen. If third place is still our target, then it will have to - either the big comeback starts here, or it doesn't start at all.
Projected starting XIs
Inter (4-3-3): Carrizo; Nagatomo, Miranda, Murillo, Telles; Brozovic, Medel, Kondogbia; Perisic, Icardi, Eder
Palermo (3-5-2): Sorrentino; Vitiello, Gonzalez, Andelkovic; Morganella, Hiljemark, Maresca, Chochev, Pezzella; Vazquez, Gilardino.
How to Watch
TV: beIN Sports (U.S. & Canada), BT Sport Europe (UK), Sky Sport 1 & Sky Calcio 1 (Italy), PremiumSport HD (Italy), RAI International
Online: Fubo TV, beIN Sports Connect (U.S. & Canada), Sky Go Italia (Italy)