One of the few positive aspects of a schedule as packed as modern football’s, is that it’s hard to dwell on defeats (or in this case very painful draws) for long. By the time Inter kicks off its tenth match of the Serie A campaign Wednesday evening, 70 hours will have passed since the Nerazzurri’s 1-1 draw with Juventus. Though taking a point from the bianconeri is far from disaster (it took Conte three go’s to even get a result against Juve after all), the way action transpired last Sunday was gut-wrenching. Luckily for us, we can turn the page as quickly as possible when Inter visits Empoli in a rare midweek Serie A fixture.
The newly-promoted side has fared surprisingly well in its return to the top-flight after a two-year absence. In fact, the last time Inter met the Azzurri was a rather memorable occasion. The Nerazzurri’s dramatic 2-1 victory on Matchday 38 of the 18/19 campaign sent Empoli down to B and secured Champions League football for Inter. Empoli’s first season in the second division ended in a 7th place finish but the appointment of Alessio Dionisi as manager in August 2020 quickly paid dividends. He guided Empoli to a first-place finish last season with a 1.95 points per game rate and a nine-point cushion over the promotion playoff zone. Dionisi was swooped away by Sassuolo this past summer, however, so Empoli turned to the familiar face of Aurelio Andreazzoli.
The 67-year-old is on his third spell in charge of the team from Tuscany and so far, so good. Empoli finds itself rooted in midtable at 10th, picking up 12 points so far (4W-0T-5L), including three from a memorable visit to the bad side of Turin back on Matchday 2. It is yet to find any sort of consistency, however, but the results have continued straggling in. After a worrying spell of defeats to Sampdoria and Venezia, it’s taken care of business against Cagliari, Bologna, and Salernitana but succumbed to Roma and Atalanta. In short, pretty much your usual midtable outfit. Good enough to occasionally beat the teams around it but nowhere near competition for European placement. Inter’s attack especially will be licking its chops after taking a look at the Empoli backline. It has the highest expected goals against at 16.5xg and leaked two tallies to a less than lethal Salernitana side over the weekend.
Chances, you feel, will be flying thick and fast at the Stadio Carlo Castellani. It’s not a given that they’ll be at just one goalmouth either. Empoli is one spot ahead of Inter in shot-creating actions so far (fbref) and the curse of the ex is also threatening to be a prominent factor come Wednesday. Andrea Pinamonti is on a season-long loan to Empoli and didn’t take long to win the starting job over Patrick Cutrone. He leads Empoli in shots and goals, though two of his three came last Saturday against Salernitana. He and Cutrone are likely to headline Empoli’s 4-3-1-2, though keep an eye out for 20-year-old midfielder Samuele Ricci when Empoli has the ball; he’s near the top of all of the Azzurri’s possession-related statistics and has one goal to his name.
Inter has played Empoli 22 times in Serie A (at least that fbref has kept track of), winning 18 and losing just twice. The last time Empoli picked up a result was in a 0-0 draw in January 2015 but you’ll have to go back all the way to 2006 for the most recent Empoli win in this fixture.
Predicted Starting XIs
On paper, this is the easiest of Inter’s four remaining games before yet another international break. Udinese (Sunday), Sheriff Tiraspol (Wednesday), and Milan (Sunday the 7th) are all more important or more difficult for one reason or another. But with seven points separating Inter from joint-leaders Milan and Napoli (not to mention the cluster of four trailing teams within three points of the Nerazzurri), dropping points against Empoli would have ill-wanted consequences.
Prediction: Empoli 1-4 Inter Milan
Empoli is yet to tie a single match so far and Inter will keep that trend alive Wednesday. A brace from Lautaro Martinez and goals from Edin Dzeko and Hakan Calhanoglu will secure a high-scoring victory for the Nerazzurri. Pinamonti (who else?), however, will keep the scoreline respectable and extend his lead atop Empoli’s goalscoring charts.