91 days later, the time has finally arrived for Inter Milan to get back into action.
On Sunday evening, 20:45 CET, Luciano Spalletti’s men are due to play their first match of the 2018-19 Serie A season and inaugurate what we hope will be an enthralling campaign, as they travel to face Sassuolo at the Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia.
On the one hand, the Neroverdi would appear to be a favourable opening day opponent for Inter, in that they’re not a direct rival and will be playing just their second competitive game under new head coach Roberto De Zerbi (thus ensuring they’ll still be very much a work in progress as they look to assimilate his ideas).
On the other hand, you could also argue that the fixture computer has done us no favours whatsoever. For the simple reason that, traditionally, fixtures against Sassuolo have always been a real pain in the you-know-where for Inter.
Our struggles in these match-ups are such that we’ve actually recorded more defeats against them (6) than victories (4) since the first meeting in 2013 - the last of which came on the penultimate weekend of the previous campaign, when Sassuolo came to San Siro and seriously jeopardised our chances of Champions League qualification with a 2-1 win.
And if that most recent defeat back in May wasn’t painful enough in itself, we then had to suffer the ignominy of being mocked by club owner Giorgio Squinzi a few days later, when he told reporters that “every time we beat Inter I hang a picture in my office with the result and date written on it, but we’re up to six wins now and I’ve run out of space...”
For that reason as much as anything else, it feels like it’s time to put this lot back in their place. “We need to win so that Squinzi doesn’t have to face this problem anymore,” as Spalletti said on the day the fixture schedule was released.
As far as Inter’s new arrivals are concerned, the numerous ‘likely starting XI’ articles I’ve seen peppered around the internet this weekend suggest that we’re going to see four summer signings out of seven making their full debuts in Reggio Emilia.
Radja Nainggolan has not been included in Spalletti’s match-day squad as he continues to recover from the thigh injury he sustained in the friendly against Sion four weeks ago, while Šime Vrsaljko and Keita Baldé are both expected to start from the bench.
The rest, however, will probably start: Matteo Politano, who will immediately be pitted against his former club no sooner has he left it; Stefan De Vrij, who could partner Miranda in central defence with doubts over Milan Skriniar’s fitness; Kwadwo Asamoah, who might play on the left wing with Ivan Perišić yet to get up to speed following his World Cup exertions; and last, but by no means least, Lautaro Martinez, who is primed to replace Nainggolan in the no. 10 position behind Mauro Icardi.
In theory, therefore, Spalletti’s first starting XI of the season is expected to look like this: Samir Handanovic in goal; Danilo D’Ambrosio, De Vrij, Miranda and Dalbert in defence; Matias Vecino and Marcelo Brozović in midfield; Politano, Martinez and the ultra-versatile Asamoah in the line of three; and Icardi up front on his own, as it were. 4-2-3-1, barring huge surprises.
Can Inter get their season off to another flying start like they did last year, or will they be castigated once again by a side that we’ve all grown to loathe in a purely sporting sense? At last it’s nearly time to find out. Inter’s 2018-19 season is about to get under way. Let’s make it a great one.
Date & Time: August 19, 2018, 8:45 p.m. CEST (2:45 p.m. on the U.S. East Coast)
Location: Mapei Stadium – Città del Tricolore, Reggio Emilia
TV/Streaming: In the United States, the game will be shown both on ESPN+ and on Rai Italia America. In the United Kingdom, you can find it on Eleven Sports 2.
Click here to find out where how you can follow the match around the world.
Inter’s Matchday Squad
Goalkeepers: Handanovic, Padelli, Berni
Defenders: Vrsaljko, De Vrij, Ranocchia, Asamoah, Miranda, Dalbert, D’Ambrosio, Skriniar
Midfielders: Gagliardini, Vecino, Borja Valero, Brozovic
Forwards: Karamoh, Icardi, Lautaro Martinez, Keita Balde, Perisic, Candreva
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