Let’s go back to January 6, 2016 for a moment. Inter had just defeated an in-form Empoli side in a very ugly 1-0 victory to kickoff the second half of the 15/16 season. The unconvincing performance would spur a succession of poor results that saw Roberto Mancini’s Inter win just one of their next six league matches, dropping from first to fifth in the Serie A table. We didn’t know it at the time, but that day would be the last occasion that Inter were top of the league table at the end of a match week.
697 days, 126 goals, 72 matches, three managers, and two ownership groups later, that can all change on Sunday.
Thanks to Juventus’ 1-0 victory over Napoli on Friday, Inter have the opportunity to sit alone atop the Italian football summit for at least a week. A win over ninth-place Chievo Verona at the San Siro would see the Nerazzurri claim league-leader status in December, something that seemed a near impossibility just six months ago.
We’ve already debated if Luciano Spalletti’s Inter should be viewed as Scudetto contenders; they shouldn’t, and a win on Sunday wouldn’t change that. But in a season where so much of the build-up had been focused on a seemingly unstoppable Juventus, a supremely talented Napoli, and a supposedly resurgent AC Milan, seeing Inter top them all nearly halfway through the campaign would be extremely satisfying, to say the least.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Inter still have a job to do if they want to take advantage of this opportunity.
Sunday’s opponents, Chievo Verona, have had an interesting season thus far. They currently sit ninth in the league despite owning a -4 goal differential. Their underlying numbers scream “mid-table side,” and they’re coming off of a grueling mid-week Coppa Italia tie with city rivals Hellas Verona, which they won on penalties. Having to play a full 120 minutes on Wednesday could force manager Rolando Maran to rotate his squad a bit to avoid fatigue.
All of this bodes well for Inter, but Spalletti’s team aren’t without questions of their own. Both Miranda and Roberto Gagliardini will miss Sunday’s match through suspension for yellow card accumulation… and while he was able to return to training, Matias Vecino’s fitness was very much in doubt this week. Can Spalletti rely on the Uruguayan to start the match? Without Gagliardini, will Inter be forced to start a midfield combination of Joao Mario/Borja Valero/Marcelo Brozovic that lacks a more-traditional CDM? To replace Miranda, will Spalletti opt to start Andrea Ranocchia or deploy Danilo D’Ambrosio as a makeshift and out-of-position center back? Your guess is as good as mine, and Spalletti’s decisions on Sunday will likely shed valuable light onto how the Italian views the squad depth at his disposal.
Nevertheless, Inter will enter Sunday’s match at the San Siro as strong favorites. They may not be true Scudetto contenders, but claiming first place in the league would be a massive achievement for this Inter squad. 90 minutes against an unimpressive and likely tired Chievo Verona side are all that stands in their way. Let’s not mess this up.
Date and Time: Sunday, December 3, 2017; 3:00 p.m. CEST (9:00 a.m. on the U.S. East Coast)
Location: Stadio Giuseppe Meazza; Milan, Italy
TV/Streaming: In the United States, the game is available on beIN Sports, with streaming through beIN Sports Connect and fuboTV. In the UK, the match will be shown on BT Sport 3 with streaming through BT Sport Live. Click here to find out where you can watch the match everywhere else in the world.
Inter Milan Squad
Likely(?) Starting XI:
(4-3-2-1): Handanovic; D’Ambrosio, Skriniar, Ranocchia, Santon; Borja Valero, Brozovic; Candreva, Joao Mario, Perisic; Icardi
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