After the week and a half long break for the holidays, Inter Milan start the 2021 calendar year at home against relegation candidates Crotone. Sunday’s early match will be the first meeting between these two since February of 2018, when Crotone managed a 1-1 draw at San Siro. This time around, the Nerazzurri will be playing for a better result to stave off the dreaded winter slump and keep pace at the top of the Serie A table.
While Crotone currently sit second from bottom in the table, only ahead of Torino, they did win their final match of 2020. They are two points from safety, but have taken one of their nine points off of Juventus in a 1-1 draw, perhaps their most impressive result of the season. In a season of very few impressive results for the Serie A newcomers, they have also beaten fellow Serie B promotion side Spezia 4-1. Their best results have undoubtedly come in home matches.
Manager Giovanni Stroppa typically sets his team up in a 3-5-2 system, similar to Inter. However, a like for like matchup with a stronger side may not benefit the visitors. With one of the weaker squads in Serie A, it will be interesting to see if Stroppa makes any tactical changes to cope with Inter’s quality.
Inter come into the new year on the heels of a ten match unbeaten streak, with the last eight of them being wins. After the much needed rest of the holiday break, Antonio Conte’s men will be fresh, with their eyes fixed on first place in the table which is currently occupied by Milan, who are two points ahead. In the final match of 2020 away to Verona, Achraf Hakimi continued his scintillating form while Lautaro Martinez broke his month long scoring drought.
A strong and fresh team is expected from Conte on Sunday, with Arturo Vidal ready to return to the midfield from the start. The probable midfield trio of Nicolo Barella, Marcelo Brozovic, and Vidal should be an interesting watch.
Inter’s record against Crotone is short but unconvincing so far. The teams have only faced each other four times in Serie A, all since 2016. In those matches, Inter have won two, drawn one, and lost one. Inter have also been prone to struggling in early Sunday kickoffs and in the winter period, so this match does pose a bit of peril. Full focus will be needed from the entire team to ensure the habits of old do not reappear.
0-2 (A) - 16/9/2017
1-1 (H) - 3/2/2018
Predicted Starting XIs
Prediction: Inter 3-0 Crotone
This should be a comfortable win for Inter in the end, but it may be a slow start. Inter have historically started slow in their first match after the winter break. On top of that, early kickoffs tend to start slow for Inter as well. However, with the team stronger in quality than any previous season, the Nerazzurri should be able to shake off any early sluggishness to claim a comprehensive home victory over a struggling side.