One of last season’s biggest surprises was Spezia’s fate in its first-ever season in the top flight. After squeaking through the playoff promotions in 19/20, the Aquilotti looked like sure bets to head right back down in its debut Serie A campaign. Instead, Vicenzo Italiano and his pleasing, possession-based brand of football guided Spezia to a 15th placed finish, relatively safe from relegation. Italiano moved on to the purpler grass of Florence after just two seasons in Liguria, leaving Spezia scrambling to find a replacement for the mastermind of their promotion and subsequent safety. Spezia settled on Thiago Motta to take the reins, but unsurprisingly, the Italiano-sized hole has been very hard-felt at the Stadio Alberto Picco.
Spezia finds itself dangerously close to the drop zone in 17th place, with 11 points from 10 rounds. Genoa, one spot below, has made its annual coaching change and (unfortunately for fans of watchable football) is likely to slither its way to safety one way or the other. That leaves Spezia in a rather stressful place, though few would say its misfortunes are a major surprise. Along with Italiano, Spezia lost a number of regular contributors on the pitch, including Tommaso Pobega and Inter-owned Lucien Agoume. The Ligurian side has struggled across the pitch so far but its weaknesses are most glaring in the defensive third. Spezia has conceded a league-high 32 goals and kept just one clean sheet all season. Inter’s league-best attack could be set to extend its lead atop the goalscoring charts even further Wednesday evening.
Spezia’s disastrous defending hasn’t exactly been balanced out by a productive attack either. Its tally of 15 goals scored is good enough for third-worst in the league and the Aquilotti scored more than one goal in just one of its last six games (a 5-2 defeat to Atalanta). The lack of a go-to goalscorer has given Motta non-stop headaches this season. A deadline day move for Mattia Destro fell apart, forcing the want-away M’Bala Nzola to stay. After leading Spezia’s charts last season with eleven strikes, he’s scored a mere two goals so far and is nowhere near as effective as he was under Italiano. Spezia’s most expensive signing of the summer, 19-year-old French attacker Janis Antiste, has shown flashes but is yet to put it all together. Wingers Daniele Verde (3 goals, 1 assist) and Emmanuel Gyasi (2g) are solid supporting pieces but far from good enough to carry an attack on their own.
- 2-0 (H), 20/12/20
- 1-1 (A), 21/4/21
Predicted Starting XIs
Prediction: Inter Milan 4-0 Spezia
Considering the current state of Spezia’s backline and Inter’s attack, this has the potential to get ugly. A Lautaro Martinez brace will set the tone before second-half strikes from Roberto Gagliardini and Denzel Dumfries seal the deal.