We all know what’s on the line. We all know what’s at stake.
Now, Inter Milan has to do its part to get there.
In a race for a spot in next season’s Champions League, the roadmap is pretty-well laid out: win and you are in.
That starts with Saturday’s matchup with Sassuolo at the San Siro.
Thanks to Atalanta’s tie with Lazio, the Nerazzurri are within striking distance of a spot in Europe. Currently, Inter is in fifth-place in Serie A, two points back of Lazio.
A win Saturday at least keeps Inter at pace with the capital side heading into next week’s season finale in Rome for all the marbles.
”The desire to play in the right way and then to win will be decisive. We lost against them in the reverse fixture, so we’ll need to show maximum respect, however, I’ve seen the lads training in the right way,” said Inter Milan manager Luciano Spalletti, in his pregame news conference Friday. This season has been like a long tournament. Now we have to play in a semifinal to put ourselves in a position to eventually play in the final during the next round of fixtures.
You can expect a championship setting at the San Siro as Inter cannot sacrifice any points against a Sassuolo side sitting 12th in Serie A.
Last week’s 1-0 win against Sampdoria all but secured Sassuolo’s place in Italy’s top flight next season.
“This was a difficult year, in which we have complicated our lives by ourselves,” said Ghanaian midfielder Alfred Duncan to GhanaWeb.com. “Finally, we will try to have fun in the best of ways in these last two, and we will try to give continuity to the results already against Inter.”
After a series of four straight draws, Sassuolo has won three of their last four – including a 1-0 against Fiorentina three weeks ago.
Sassuolo can play spoiler against Inter as a loss to the Green and Black would all but eliminate the Nerazzurri from Champions League qualifications if Lazio defeats Crotone Sunday. The next week, Sassuolo closes the season against Roma, who are two points up on Lazio in third, but can drop to as low as fourth with a loss coupled with a pair of Inter wins.
Of course, we all know the scenarios. If Inter wins, they either keep pace with Lazio or leapfrog them into fourth with the final match of the season playing huge implications. If Inter lose, they would have to hope for Crotone to defeat Lazio at home. If Lazio wins and Inter loses, the Nerazzurri will have to settle for the Europa League next season regardless of whether they beat Lazio in the final week of the season, unless goal differential is higher for Inter.
For Inter, they will have Matias Vecino and Danilo D’Ambrosio back from suspension while Roberto Gagliardini may be available off a hamstring injury but could be used sparingly. Joao Miranda remains questionable for the match.
“We’ll evaluate Miranda between tonight and tomorrow morning. To not play him was already a precautionary matter,” Spalletti said. “We’ll talk about Gagliardini next week. Vecino still has to be assessed, there’s a lot behind this match but first of all, we have to win. Borja Valero is a maestro in linking up different parts of the team and playing in traffic.”
Inter has won three of their last four and have scored 12 goals in those four matches. Striker Mauro Icardi currently sits on 28 league goals – one back of Lazio’s Ciro Immobile. Khouma Babacar leads Sassuolo in scoring with six on the season.
Marcelo Brozovic – who have found top form of late – Ivan Perisic and Antonio Candreva each have eight assists for the Nerazzurri. Offensively, Inter have a strong advantage as Sassuolo have allowed 57 goals in this season and have a minus-30 goal differential – tied for third-worst in Serie A.
There is really no gray area here. Inter has to win to keep its hopes for Champions League play alive. A draw doesn’t eliminate them, unless Lazio wins.
But, the bottom line is Inter cannot worry about Roma or Lazio. They only have to take care of themselves if they have any hopes of reaching Europe’s top competition next season.
What do you think? Post your comments below!
Date & Time: May 12, 2018, 8:45 p.m. CEST (2:45 on the U.S. East Coast)
Location: Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan
TV/Streaming: In the United States, the match will be available on beIN SPORTS Connect and on RAI Italia. In the United Kingdom, you can watch the game on BT Sport 2 and BT Sport Live.
Click here to find out where you can watch the match around the world.
Inter’s Matchday Squad
Goalkeepers: Handanovic, Padelli, Berni
Defenders: Lisandro Lopez, Joao Cancelo, Ranocchia, Santon, Miranda, Dalbert, Skriniar, D’Ambrosio
Midfielders: Rafinha, Borja Valero, Brozovic, Vecino, Gagliardini
Forwards: Icardi, Karamoh, Eder, Perisic, Candreva, Pinamonti
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