The dust has barely settled on a dramatic midweek round of action in Serie A and already it’s time for Inter Milan to take to the field again.
On Sunday afternoon the Nerazzurri will walk out into the miserable surroundings of the Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi to face relegation-threatened ChievoVerona, knowing that anything other than a win against the so-called Flying Donkeys would seriously jeopardise their hopes of qualifying for next year’s UEFA Champions League.
With just five games left to play this season Luciano Spalletti’s side are outside the positions that would grant them an invitation to Europe’s top club competition for the 2018-19 campaign, after rivals Roma and Lazio responded to Tuesday’s demolition of Cagliari by winning their own matchday 33 encounters the following evening.
As such, the margin for error between now and the end of the campaign is virtually zero. We may have won during the week but it wasn’t enough to break back into the top four, so we’re going to need to win again in Verona.
If Inter can repeat the performance they produced the last time they met Rolando Maran’s men, when they annihilated them 5-0 to go the top of the table before the winter crisis began, then there’ll be nothing to worry about.
But there are two reasons to pessimistic about witnessing a replica of Sunday 3 December this weekend.
Firstly, Inter’s away form - or to be more specific, Inter’s away attack. We’ve failed to score in six of our last nine matches on the road and have found the net on just seven occasions in 2018 - five of which came in the space of 30 minutes against Sampdoria on 18 March.
Combine that with the fact that Chievo haven’t conceded in either of their last two games - and haven’t conceded before the 89th minute in any of their last four games - and you will appreciate the risk that, unless we score early on, this could turn into a very long slog for us. A faticaccia, if you will.
Secondly, Roberto Gagliardini’s hamstring injury, which threatens to keep the Italian out of action until the end of the season.
Whoever takes his place in central midfield over the next few weeks - be it Borja Valero, be it Matias Vecino, be it Milan Skriniar even - is unlikely to strike up the same kind of partnership he had established with Marcelo Brozovic during the last month, and it is likely to hurt us in the matches that remain. Starting with Sunday’s clash at the Bentegodi.
However Inter have no choice. They have no choice but to rise above these problems and return from Verona with three points, because if they don’t then their season will take a potentially decisive turn for the worse, towards the dreaded F word: Failure.
There are no excuses this weekend. Inter have to win and that is final. The phrase that springs to mind is the one Spalletti himself coined while at Roma last season: uomini forti, destini forti. Uomini deboli, destini deboli.
Strong men, strong destinies. Weak men, weak destinies.
Date & Time: Sunday, April 22nd, 2018; 15:00 PM CEST (9:00 AM on the U.S. East Coast)
Location: Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi; Verona, Italy
TV/Streaming: In the US television viewers will be able to find the game on beIN Sports and Rai Italia, while if you’d like to watch it online then iGol, FuboTV and beIN Sports Connect are the places for you. In the UK it will be shown BT Sport behind the red button.
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, Ranocchia, Santon, Miranda, Dalbert, D’Ambrosio, Skriniar
Midfielders: Rafinha, Borja Valero, Brozovic, Vecino
Forwards: Icardi, Karamoh, Eder, Perisic, Candreva, Pinamonti
Unavailable: Gagliardini (hamstring)
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