It has been one long international break since Inter last played a match. The win over Sassuolo on the second day of October was the last bit of action for the Nerazzurri before players fanned out across the globe for action with their respective national teams. Now for the part that can be hairy at times, trying to regroup with enough players ready both mentally and physically to get right back at it in Serie A. No better way to do so than by facing manager Simone Inzaghi’s former club Lazio in Rome on Saturday.
It has been an extremely up and down season so far for Lazio and their new manager Maurizio Sarri. They started the season with two wins from two, but then lost to Milan and dropped points in two more matches before a thrilling 3-2 derby win over Roma. However, that excitement was dampened with a thumping 3-0 loss to Bologna that saw Francesco Acerbi dealt a red card late out of frustration.
While Acerbi will miss the match, Lazio expect to return Ciro Immobile from injury. The Biancocelesti striker will be huge in an attack that has missed him, flanked by Pedro and known Inter killer Felipe Anderson. Inter’s best bet will be to expose the depleted Lazio defense before the high press of Sarri causes too many problems for Inter, as it has from many teams this season.
The comeback win against Sassuolo was huge for Inter. It ensured the Nerazzurri broke a streak of consecutive draws in Serie A and the Champions League and kept Inter within range of Milan and Napoli. However, any momentum was snuffed by the international break, which has seen both Lautaro Martinez and Joaquin Correa struggle with muscle fatigue with Argentina. The question marks around their timeline for arrival back in Italy and their fitness have led some outlets to assume Stefano Sensi or Hakan Calhanoglu could play as a trequartista behind lone striker Edin Dzeko in a similar setup to the season opener.
It will be an emotional return to the Stadio Olimpico for Simone Inzaghi, who spent the better part of 22 years as a player and manager in the Lazio system. Laziali in the stadium are expected to give their former manager a warm welcome, though they will surely be hoping he does not take home the three points.
3-1 (H) - 14/2/2021
1-1 (A) - 4/10/2020
Predicted Starting XIs
Prediction: Lazio 1-2 Inter
This could be a hairy one for Inter. Coming off the last international break, the Nerazzurri drew 1-1 with Sampdoria and looked very tired headed into the latter stages of that match. Noon a Saturday is an earlier kickoff, something Inter also struggle with sometimes. However, the mismatch between Inter’s attack and Lazio’s defense is something Inzaghi’s team can exploit. No Acerbi will be huge. Matteo Darmian and Ivan Perisic need to play key roles in keeping the Lazio wingers quiet. Immobile is always a threat on goal, but winning that battle on the wings will likely make the difference. Look for Dzeko to pick up the goal scoring form where he left off and for a set piece goal from a defender.