While Inter were kicking off their preseason tour of China and Singapore with a draw against Schalke, the first handful of dates on the Nerazzurri’s 2017-18 season calendar fell into place.
The fixtures for the upcoming Serie A campaign are scheduled to be released next week - 1815 CET on Wednesday 26 July, to be precise - but before that we have a few days to get to grips with the draw for this year’s Coppa Italia (or TIM Cup; whichever you prefer), as that was made in Milan on Friday afternoon.
78 teams will participate in this season’s competition, as has been the case since the 2008-09 season; all 20 clubs from Serie A, all 22 clubs from Serie B, 27 from Serie C and 9 from Serie D. There are eight rounds in total, each of which are one-off encounters - apart from the semifinals, which are played over two legs.
The teams that occupied the top eight positions in Serie A last season will enter the tournament at the last 16 round, which means Inter Milan would only have to play five matches to win the tournament. Thus, given that we aren’t in Europe this year, there is little reason to not take this competition seriously. It would hardly create an enormous fixture congestion for us.
Each of the last three editions of the TIM Cup have been won by Juventus, who boast the most number of victories in this tournament (12). The Bianconeri sealed their latest success in May when they defeated Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico, setting a new record for consecutive victories in the competition (3).
Inter have won the tournament on seven occasions in their history, but their last success dates all the way back to the 2010-11 campaign. Time to add an eighth, methinks.
But anyway, onto the draw itself. Given that all of it gets done in one big ceremony at the beginning of the season, we already have a rough idea of what our route to the final would look like, and I have to say we could have been handed worse. Below is what our path to ultimate glory looks like, assuming for a moment that every tie is won by the team that you would expect to win (which almost certainly happen, but whatever):
Last 16 [12/13/14/19/20/21 December]: INTER vs Cagliari
(Other plausible opponents: Palermo, Venezia, Pro Vercelli)
Quarter-Final [26/27 Dec or 2/3 Jan]: Milan vs INTER
(Other plausible opponents: Chievo, Verona)
Semi-Final 1st Leg [30/31 January]: INTER vs Lazio / Fiorentina vs INTER
Semi-Final 2nd Leg [27/28 February]: Lazio vs INTER / INTER vs Fiorentina
(Other plausible opponents: Sampdoria, Bologna, SPAL)
Final [9 May]: Juventus vs INTER
(Other plausible opponents: Roma, Napoli, Atalanta)
Apologies if I’ve confused you there. It’s a distinct possibility. The visual aid below, which shows the last 16 onwards, may be more intelligible.
Alternatively, you can see the complete draw here. (The only vaguely interesting aspect of it is that there might be a Verona derby in the fourth round, which is nice.)
Essentially, there are two important things to take from this draw:
- There is a very strong chance we will play Milan in the quarter-finals. The only way that that eventuality could be avoided is if one of us self-destructs in the previous round. There hasn’t been a Derby della Madonnina in the Coppa Italia for over 17 years - Inter, then managed by Marcello Lippi, won a two-legged quarter-final on that occasion before going on to lose to Lazio in the final - but overall Inter and Milan have met 22 times in this competition. We’ve won 7, they’ve won 9, and there have been 7 draws. (Milan would be the ‘home’ team on this occasion, courtesy of their higher seeding).
- This is a very good draw for Inter. Last season’s top three in Serie A - Juventus, Roma and Napoli - are all in the other half of the draw, so we are morally obliged to take this competition seriously. If we do, there’s a great chance we can make the final for the first time since 2011, and who knows what could happen at that stage. The only three ‘big’ teams that stand in our way are Milan, Lazio and Fiorentina - and the first two of those are in the Europa League this season, so it’ll be harder for them to put a cup run together. Let’s go for it - it’s about time we won an effing trophy again.
Might this be the year Inter finally get their hands back on a trophy? We certainly won’t begin as favorites, but realistically speaking the draw could not have given us a better shot. Let’s hope we’re not left ruing what might have been.