Seven days on from their first defeat of the season it’s time for Inter to return to action. On Saturday afternoon the Nerazzurri will face off against Sassuolo in their penultimate league match of the calendar year, with a burning desire to right the wrongs that condemned Luciano Spalletti’s men to defeat at the hands of Udinese last weekend.
More than the wretched second-half performance against the Friulani, it is the following 90 minutes at the Mapei Stadium that will tell us a lot about Inter’s credentials for a top four finish this season.
What matters in this sport we all love so dearly - as Spalletti himself alluded to during his pre-match press conference - is not to never lose, because that’s as good as impossible, but to react when you do lose. If Inter do that then there is no need to be overly concerned about last Saturday’s setback, because if it hadn’t happened against Udinese then it would have happened soon enough.
On the other hand, if they don’t produce a convincing response to their first defeat of the season then there will be reason for concern, and not just because of the psychological consequences that a second successive slip-up could have on the team.
As well as an opportunity to put Udinese behind them this weekend’s game with Sassuolo is also Inter’s last chance to get some points on the board before they head into a difficult run of fixtures between December and January, which will see them pitted against Milan (in the Coppa Italia), Lazio, Fiorentina and AS Roma in quick succession. It is vital we head into that run with another win under our belts, for more reason than one.
Having said that Spalletti and co. cannot afford to look too far ahead, because if those are all difficult teams to beat then Sassuolo aren’t exactly going to be straightforward opposition themselves.
Much like Udinese last weekend, the Neroverdi are beginning to show signs of revival after changing their coach and arrive at this game off the back of two straight wins, the last of which came against Sampdoria at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris. Defeating them will not be a mere formality; let’s hope that Mauro Icardi, who scored his first hat-trick for Inter against Sassuolo back in September 2014, can continue the ridiculous goal-scoring form that has seen him notch up 17 goals in 17 games this season and guide us to victory.
So far Inter’s record against Sassuolo at the Mapei Stadium is absolutely symmetrical - 2 wins and 2 defeats in 4 games played. The direction in which that particular statistical pendulum swings this weekend will determine whether Inter’s Christmas 2017 is a bianco natale (a white Christmas), or a natale in bianco (a sleepless Christmas).
Let’s keep our fingers crossed for the former.
Date & Time: Saturday, December 23rd, 2017; 3:00 PM CEST (09:00 AM on the U.S. East Coast)
Location: Mapei Stadium-Città del Tricolore; Reggio Emilia, Italy
TV/Streaming: In the US the game will not be shown on TV, but it is available online through beIN Sports Connect and fuboTV. Click here to find out where you can watch the match everywhere else in the world.
Note that Sassuolo-Inter will not be broadcast live in the UK, due to the Saturday afternoon blackout which prevents live football of any kind from being broadcast between 14:30-17:15.
Inter’s Matchday Squad
Goalkeepers: Handanovic, Padelli, Berni
Defenders: Joao Cancelo, Ranocchia, Santon, Miranda, Dalbert, D’Ambrosio, Skriniar, Nagatomo
Midfielders: Gagliardini, Borja Valero, Joao Mario, Brozovic
Forwards: Icardi, Karamoh, Eder, Perisic, Candreva, Pinamonti
Unavailable: Vanheusden (ACL), Vecino (suspended)
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