Despite Wednesday’s dramatic (and somewhat frustrating) draw in the Derby della Madonnina still being fresh in many people’s minds it is already time for Inter to return to Serie A action, with Round 31 of the 2017-18 season offering up a tricky fixture away to Torino that could go a long way to determining the Nerazzurri’s fate in the race for Champions League qualification.
While the performance Inter offered up against Milan in midweek confirmed that Luciano Spalletti’s side have definitively left their mid-season slump behind them - and are currently in the best shape they’ve been all season - the failure to capitalise on it by taking three fully-deserved points leaves them with plenty of work still to do in order to secure a Top Four finish.
The next seven days however should provide us with a much clearer picture as to whether or not they’re going to manage it, with Inter facing back-to-back away matches against two in-form sides that are chasing Serie A’s European places - not to mention two former Inter coaches.
For now, though, let’s leave Atalanta and Gian Piero Gasperini to one side and focus our attention on Torino and Walter Mazzarri, as there is reason to believe they could provide particularly stern opposition for our new-look, quality-heavy team this weekend.
First, form. The Granata may have endured a torrid month leading up to the March international break by suffering four defeats on the bounce, but they have since got their campaign back on track with resounding victories over Cagliari (4-0) and Crotone (4-1) and welcomed the real Andrea Belotti back into their ranks, with the Italian international netting a hat-trick against the Calabresi on Wednesday.
Second, motivation. The two wins Torino have picked up over the last eight days mean that there are now only five points separating them and Italy’s final Europa League place again, and so one imagines they will be very keen to cap off a fine week-and-a-bit by getting a result on Sunday.
Third, and most dauntingly of all, The Ex Factor. This weekend will be the first time that the man many Interisti affectionately refer to as ‘Uolter’ squares up against Inter since he was unceremoniously sacked by the club back in November 2014, so one can only imagine how fired up he in particular must be for this clash.
You can bet your bottom dollar that Mazzarri will leave no stone unturned in his attempts to derail his former club’s season, so it’ll be up to us to sidestep whatever tactical trap he may lay in our path (because let’s not forget that these are exactly the kind of games he’s brilliant at preparing his teams for, where they can sit off their opponent and then pounce on the counter).
And if that weren’t ominous enough, at his disposal are no fewer than four players who have a spell at Inter in their recent pasts: Joel Obi, Cristian Ansaldi, Nicolas Burdisso or Adem Ljajic. (Compared to Inter’s two former Torino players: Danilo D’Ambrosio and Daniele Padelli.)
Le insidie non mancano, as the Italians would say (this match is not short on pitfalls.) But despite all of that I say we must be confident we can beat this Torino side on their own patch.
Because the Inter team that we’ve seen in the last three matches - an Inter team that has just kept five consecutive clean sheets in Serie A for the first time since 2005 - is an Inter team that is capable of beating anybody in Serie A on its day, having finally regained the self-belief it had lost over the winter and started to play the kind of attractive, unpredictable football Luciano Spalletti’s teams have always been renowned for.
It’ll take another convincing team performance to return home on Sunday with three points, but for once I have a reasonable degree of faith in these players to go out and produce just that. Ever since they were provoked in public by their coach after the match against Napoli they have looked like men on a mission, eyes fixed firmly on the end-of-season prize.
This exact fixture twelve months ago was the fixture in which our season began to unravel in spectacular style, but we have good reason to believe that history will not repeat itself here.
If this promises to be a hard game for us then it promises to be an even harder one for Torino.
Let’s do this.
Date & Time: Sunday, April 8th, 2018; 12:30 PM CEST (6:30 AM on the U.S. East Coast)
Location: Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino; Turin, 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 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: Lisandro Lopez, Joao Cancelo, Ranocchia, Santon, Miranda, Dalbert, D’Ambrosio, Skriniar
Midfielders: Gagliardini, Rafinha, Borja Valero, Brozovic
Forwards: Icardi, Karamoh, Eder, Perisic, Candreva, Pinamonti
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