After the (vaguely) morale-boosting performance and draw at home to Napoli and the (distinctly) morale-sapping comments made by Luciano Spalletti during his post-game duties, Inter will return to Serie A action on Sunday afternoon as they face Sampdoria at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris.
The last time the Nerazzurri visited the ground more commonly known as ‘Marassi’ they left empty-handed after Genoa punished an awfully meek display to win 2-0 in mid-February, but anything other than a victory this time around would represent a sizeable dent to their hopes of Champions League qualification - not least because it’s pretty unlikely any of Inter’s direct rivals will be dropping any points this weekend either (Crotone vs Roma, Lazio vs Bologna, Milan vs Chievo).
Coming away from Sunday’s lunchtime kick-off with all three points will not be straightforward by any means, however, because if Sampdoria have often struggled to impose themselves on the road this season (as last weekend’s 4-1 defeat to Crotone testifies) they hardly ever miss a trick in front of their own fans.
In 14 games at Marassi this season Marco Giampaolo’s side have racked up 10 wins, 2 draws and 2 defeats, making theirs the third best home record in Serie A (behind Juventus and Napoli), and if that’s not impressive enough already it’s worth adding that both of those defeats came courtesy of goals conceded in stoppage time (not to mention the 93rd-minute equaliser Roma needed to snatch one of the two draws back in January).
If the pitch is in a good condition then the Blucerchiati’s super-organised and super-technical style of play (in which Dennis Praet and Bartosz Bereszynski, two players Inter are reportedly monitoring ahead of this summer’s transfer window, often stand out) can prove very difficult indeed to contrast, which means Inter will need to be somewhere close to their best in order to beat them.
And if one were to cast their eye over Inter’s performances away from home so far this season, there’s no guarantee that they will be at their best. Spalletti’s boys haven’t tasted victory of any kind outside the confines of San Siro since 25 November, when they defeated Cagliari 3-1 at the Sardegna Arena, while for their last success on the road against a top-half team you need to go all the way back to the win over Roma on the second week of the season.
Neither that, nor the fact that Inter currently have Serie A’s 12th-most potent attack away from home (15 goals scored in 12 games), augurs well when one considers that 7 of our remaining 11 matches this season will be away from home. If these trends don’t start to change soon then our hopes of a top four finish are destined to disintegrate in fairly quick time.
Away from the nitty-gritty of the match itself, one other aspect of this clash that I always find curious nowadays is the sheer number of players who have had past experiences with the other team.
More than The X Factor matches between Inter and Sampdoria during the last couple of years have become a case of The Ex Factor, because between the two teams there will no fewer than EIGHT players (and one coach) playing against their former club on Sunday - and it could very have easily been nine, had Andrea Ranocchia not picked up a thigh injury this week to rule him out of the game.
Sampdoria on this occasion have five of them (Emiliano Viviano, Gianluca Caprari - both of whom never played for Inter but were contracted to them at a certain point in their careers - Ricky Alvarez, Matias Silvestre and Vid Belec), while Inter have the other three: Mauro Icardi, Milan Skriniar and Éder.
And then of course there’s Luciano Spalletti himself, who spent the 1998-99 season in charge of Sampdoria before being sacked (for the second time in the space of six months) following their relegation to Serie B.
Spalletti endured a mostly torrid campaign in Genova in what was just his second coaching experience in Serie A, but he did enjoy one spectacular afternoon that year when Samp demolished Inter 4-0 in the very fixture he’s preparing to play this weekend. A hat-trick from Vincenzo Montella and a gorgeous lob from Ariel Ortega did the trick for him back then, as the video below illustrates.
Thank goodness we won’t have either of them to deal with this time around...
Date & Time: Sunday, March 18th, 2018; 12:30 PM CEST (6:30 AM on the U.S. East Coast)
Location: Stadio Luigi Ferraris; Genova, Italy
TV/Streaming: In the US the game will be shown on Rai Italia (as well as fuboTV and beIN Sports Connect online), while UK residents will find it on BT Sport 1 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: Lisandro Lopez, Joao Cancelo, Santon, Miranda, Dalbert, D’Ambrosio, Skriniar
Midfielders: Gagliardini, Rafinha, Vecino, Borja Valero, Brozovic
Forwards: Icardi, Karamoh, Eder, Perisic, Candreva
Unavailable: Ranocchia, Pinamonti, Emmers
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