If Inter are to maintain their position, a win at Cagliari Friday is a necessity – especially after the 3-3 debacle at Fiorentina on Sunday. It was there where the video-assisted referee reared its ugly head, giving the Viola a penalty in the 10th minute of extra time allowing Fiorentina to draw.
The problem was: There was really no penalty at all. However, the match official did not overrule his decision, creating the controversy.
“In terms of my post-match reaction in Florence, it’s clear that there is still a bit of annoyance. We played our game yet certain moments didn’t prove decisive, therefore, we were a bit disappointed,” said Inter manager Luciano Spalletti, in his pre-match news conference. “However, the players know that they need to get going straight away in the league, and they’ve been training well. They’re in the right frame of mind for the rest of the season, where there’s still plenty left to play for.”
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So, Inter will have to have a quick memory to get past the draw in Florence.
And, just like the previous four matches, they will likely have to do it without Mauro Icardi. But, that isn’t a bad thing.
In the matches since Icardi has been out, the Nerazzurri have scored 10 goals in those matches – including the two Europa League legs with Rapid Wien. Before that, it took Inter 11 matches to score 10 goals.
Keita Balde, while on the mend, will also not likely earn a start Friday.
“We must monitor Keita daily as he improves in training,” Spalletti said. “He’s progressed and I hope to have him available in a couple of matches time.”
Interestingly enough, Lautaro Martinez will start up front against the team he scored his first Inter Milan goal against – a 2-0 win back in September. Since finding a spot on the pitch, Martinez has scored two goals in the last five matches – including a game winner at Parma.
“Lautaro is doing what I expected from him and is playing really well. During our last game, he beat his men in the channels, managed to lift the team, pressed their defense by himself and used his qualities to help the team,” Spalletti said. “He’s dealing with this responsibility well, improving game by game and in training. He’s becoming an important reference point up front and his teammates have faith in him.”
Ivan Perisic has also made a resurgence after his mid-season struggles. The Croatian has also scored twice in the last five matches.
“The same thing happened with Ivan Perisic last year when he went through a bit of a hazy period and then recovered. You can be influenced by certain incidents in Italian football because there’s a heavy burden both psychologically and physically,” Spalletti said. “However, even if Perisic doesn’t perform well from the outside and he misplaces a few too many passes, then he still plays an important role. He’s a strong player, reliable in every sense and he’s worthy of Inter.”
Projected lineup: Handanovic; Dalbert, Skriniar, De Vrij, D’Ambrosio; Perisic, Brozovic, Nainggolan, Vecino, Candreva; Martinez
The Rossoblu have not had a very good season thus far.
In fact, over the last five matches, Cagliari have notched just one win – a 2-1 win at home against Parma. It has put some pressure on Cagliari manager Rolando Maran.
“We face an opponent of great technical caliber and the performance remains the best way to have more chances to get a result,” Maran said, in his pre-match news conference. “We will have to know how to put sacrifice and courage into the field, we want to give continuity. It will be necessary to play with impudence, to make compactness a strength. We are convinced that we can achieve a positive result.”
Cagliari will likely not have the services of midfielders Lucas Castro and Valer Bisra and former Liverpool defender Ragnar Klavan is out nursing an Achilles injury.
For the season, Cagliari have one of the worst goal differentials in Serie A at minus-15. Despite that, Maran said they will have to press forward if they have any hopes of cracking Inter’s strong offense.
”A fundamental aspect will be to get out of the first pressure. Inter strikers and midfielders cover the field well, we will have to propose to dare something forward,” Maran said. “We will not have to play a game of waiting, but of personality, resorting to our identity.”
Cagliari have won just 13 matches in 77 against Inter with the last win coming at the Giuseppe Meazza in 2016.
Projected lineup: Cragno; Pellegrini, Pisacane; Ceppitelli; Padoi; Lonita; Cigarini, Barella, Dieola; Doratiotto, Pavoletti
Time and Date: 2:30 p.m. ET (19:30 local) Friday, March 1, 2019
Location: Sardegna Arena (Cagliari)
How to watch: If you are in the United States, the match will be live on ESPN+. In the United Kingdom, the match will air on Premier Sports 2. If you are watching the match in Italy, you can see it on Sky Supercalcio HD, Sky Sport Serie A, Sky Calcio 1 and Sky Go Italia.
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