And so, many tears and not very many smiles later, Inter’s 2017 is finally about to draw to a close.
In 42 competitive matches so far this calendar year the Nerazzurri have amassed 23 wins, 7 draws and 12 defeats across all competitions, but before Luciano Spalletti and his players can drink a toast to the New Year and settle down to enjoy the fireworks there is one final exam to be sat on Saturday night, and it could well be the single most important exam that Inter have sat all year.
Fixture no. 43 of a trying 2017 responds to the name of Inter-Lazio at San Siro; an unmissable end-of-year tradition (this is the FOURTH season in a row that we’ve finished the calendar year with a match at home to Lazio) but also a hugely significant clash in the race for Serie A’s top four.
Given that Inter’s one and only objective for this campaign - as stated by literally everyone associated with the club at some point over the last six months - is to qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League, and that Lazio are the only team who can realistically prevent us from doing that, this is without doubt our biggest game of the season so far.
Perhaps Roma-Inter, Napoli-Inter, Juventus-Inter and October’s derby were all more historically prestigious games than this one, but none of them - none of them - were decisive for the outcome of our season quite like Inter-Lazio will be. Particularly given that our defeats to Udinese and Sassuolo have cut our advantage in the table over the Biancoceleste to just 4 points, which however is more like 1 point considering that Lazio have a game in hand (at home to Udinese, ironically enough).
This is not a match for us, it is the match - the match we cannot and must not, under any circumstances, screw up.
Win and we will get our campaign firmly back on track, as it will ensure that we arrive at the halfway point of the season with a comfortable gap back to 5th - and it because it will heal some of the psychological wounds inflicted on the team by the three straight defeats they’ve just suffered (if not all of them).
Lose and... well, to be honest, I don’t really want to think about that. Four straight defeats, yet another mental hammer blow and a virtual 5th place in the table, leaving us right back at square one after a magnificent first four months of the season - suffice it to say that it would be time to bring out the C-word.
It’s an all or nothing for us this weekend. It could be the match that revives us or it could be the match that definitively sinks us.
Or it could be a draw. That’s also possible. A draw would keep panic stations at arm’s length, at least for the time being, and might even be a positive result given how we arrive at this game. But really we need a win. We need a win so we can leave the last two weeks behind us once and for all.
Christmas was terrible but the New Year doesn’t have to be. Take three points from this match and a big bright light will appear at the end of the tunnel.
Date & Time: Saturday, December 30th, 2017; 6:00 PM CEST (12:00 PM on the U.S. East Coast)
Location: Stadio Giuseppe Meazza; Milan, Italy
TV/Streaming: In the US the game will be shown on both beIN Sports and Rai Italia (and on fuboTV and beIN Sports Connect online), while UK residents will find it on BT Sport 3 HD (available online via BT Sport Live). Click here to find out where you can watch the match everywhere else in the world.
Inter’s Matchday Squad
Goalkeepers: Handanovic, Padelli, Berni
Defenders: Joao Cancelo, Ranocchia, Santon, Dalbert, Skriniar, Nagatomo, Lombardoni
Midfielders: Gagliardini, Joao Mario, Vecino, Borja Valero, Brozovic
Forwards: Icardi, Karamoh, Eder, Perisic, Candreva, Pinamonti
Unavailable: D’Ambrosio, Miranda, Vanheusden
Match Thread Rules
There are only three rules: don’t be hateful, don’t disrespect anyone else’s opinion and enjoy the game!
Want to contribute? Sign up for an SB Nation account and join the conversation on Serpents of Madonnina. Whether it is match coverage and analysis, breaking news, mercato or you just want to be immersed in all things Inter, we have it right here.