When: Wednesday, September 21, 2:45pm ET / 8:45pm CET.
Where: Stadio Carlo Castellani, Empoli, Italy.
Sunday's Derby d'Italia was an occasion that every Interista will remember for as long as they live, but for Frank de Boer and his players it is already time to forget their magnificent achievement as the first midweek round of the Serie A season is about to be thrust upon us. On Matchday 5 Inter will travel to the Stadio Carlo Castellani to face Empoli, one of Italy's better footballing stories over the last few years who will be ready to take advantage of any 'after the Lord Mayor's show'-style performance on Wednesday night. We must not give them that opportunity; otherwise, in Mister De Boer's own words, last weekend's triumph will effectively be rendered worthless.
Inter are the team Empoli have suffered most Serie A defeats against in their modest history (16), while they have also put more goals past the Tuscan outfit than anybody else in the top-flight (47), taking all three points on seven of the last eight meetings between the sides. Roberto Mancini (remember him?) oversaw the three most recent successes, but all of those were games decided by a one-goal margin in which Empoli more than held their own against us (and in some cases just played better), so if history teaches us anything this will be anything but a stroll in the park for our lads. The two away games we've had there since they were promoted back into Serie A have both been really tough, in fact, with a goalless draw in January 2015 that Maurizio Sarri's team dominated before last season's 1-0 win that we were very fortunate to collect.
This is a game I am moderately fearful of. (Those who know me will be aware that I expect us to lose every single game we play, but anyway.) After such an incredible high on Sunday afternoon it would be very easy for the players to drop their concentration and intensity levels for this match against less glamorous opposition, so De Boer will have to hammer into them just how important it is to step out onto the pitch with the same hunger and spirit that served us so well against the Gobbi. Inter must never become one of those teams whose season is defined by how they get on in one or two big games, because we are a big team, and big teams are defined by where they end up in May and what trophies they've won - not whether or not we were able to beat a stronger team than us in a one-off game. Consistency is the key, in other words, and it's been too long since we had it. Let's find some.
The main bit of team news heading into this match is that we will be without Ever Banega, after he was sent off in stoppage time against Juventus and triggered an automatic one-match suspension. Frank de Boer should have everybody else ready for selection though, with the Argentine most likely to be replaced by Geoffrey Kondogbia in a 4-3-3 system. No other changes are foreseen despite the quick turnaround post-Juve, although we will have two new faces on the substitutes' bench in Gabriel Barbosa and Cristian Ansaldi, with the latter having finally recovered from the knee injury that forced him to miss the opening month of the campaign.
For Empoli, there is a chance that Giovanni Martusciello will rotate his men slightly and give a start at left-back to our very own Federico Dimarco, who's currently on loan with them and will be champing at the bit to show his parent club just what he can do.
Predicted Starting XIs
Empoli (4-3-1-2): Skorupski; Laurini, Bellusci, Barba, Pasqual; Tello, Diousse, Buchel; Saponara; Pucciarelli, Maccarone.
Inter (4-3-3): Handanovic; D'Ambrosio, Miranda, Murillo, Santon; Joao Mario, Medel, Kondogbia; Candreva, Icardi, Perisic.
How to Watch
TV: Sky Calcio 2 HD, Premium Calcio 1 (Italy)
Online: Sky Go (Italy).