After a slim victory over Bologna on Saturday, Inter return home Wednesday on a quick turnaround to make up for the missed round before the international break due to COVID concerns within the Nerazzurri squad. Inter and Sassuolo will not be the only two teams kicking off on Wednesday afternoon, as Napoli and Juventus will finally make up their controversially called off match from early in the season. Both matches kick off simultaneously, giving Inter another possibly massive stepping stone to fully eliminating Juventus from what is left of their tattered title chase.
It has not been pretty in recent matches, but Inter have been getting it done. Romelu Lukaku’s bullet of a header proved to be the difference against Bologna. Inter have not won a match by more than one goal since February 28, but the four wins in that time are still worth three points each and are slowly ending any doubt about who will be lifting the Scudetto at the end of the season. Antonio Conte’s side now have some breathing room as they host a team that usually bring their best against his club.
There will be some forced absences for the home side in this match. Both Alessandro Bastoni and Marcelo Brozovic walked the yellow card accumulation tight rope for weeks, but both picked one up in the Bologna match, meaning they are suspended for one match. Nicolo Barella is still one card away from suspension, but will likely still play despite a bit of fatigue. In place of Bastoni, it is rumored that Matteo Darmian will be plugged in as a makeshift center back to get forward in the same fashion, though it is not clear if he will start as the left sided center back or be moved to the right with Milan Skriniar covering on the left. Ashley Young will likely start again on the left flank while Ivan Perisic aims for a weekend start. In the midfield, Brozovic will be replaced by one of Christian Eriksen or Stefano Sensi at regista. The always-available Roberto Gagliardini will likely play on the left side of the three central midfielders. Up top, Alexis Sanchez could come in for one of Lukaku or Lautaro Martinez.
After securing a late 2-2 draw against Roma at the Stadio Olimpico, Sassuolo will also be down a few important players. Domenico Berardi and Francesco Caputo will be absent from the Sassuolo attack due to injury, so it will presumably be Giacomo Raspadori to start up top after playing well and scoring the late equalizer against Roma. Despite the losses, the three behind the striker are always dangerous for Sassuolo, no matter who starts ahead of them. Manuel Locatelli will also be absent from Roberto De Zerbi’s squad, missing out on a second match due to COVID precautions. This is another massive loss for the visitors, though they did show on Saturday that they can still grind out results without some of their marquee names.
Sassuolo’s exploits against Inter are well documented. The Nerazzurri won the reverse fixture earlier in the season, but have not beaten Sassuolo twice in a season since 2013-14, the Neroverdi’s first in Serie A. On their last trip to face Inter, Sassuolo secured a late 3-3 draw that effectively dashed Inter’s chances at overcoming Juventus for the Serie A title. Sassuolo have not won in their last four against Inter, but know that they have a chance to prove their penchant for being a thorn in the league leader’s side once again as they have in nearly every season in the past 8 years.
3-3 (H) - 24/6/2020
0-3 (A) - 28/11/2020
Predicted Starting XIs
Inter (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, de Vrij; Darmian; Hakimi, Barella, Eriksen, Gagliardini, Young; Lautaro, Alexis
Sassuolo (4-2-3-1): Consigli; Toljan, Chiriches, Peluso, Rogerio; Magnanelli, Obiang; Traorè, Djuricic, Boga; Raspadori
Prediction: Inter 3-2 Sassuolo
While a draw would be a more cautious and appropriate prediction given the history of this fixture, a return to offensive form may be on the cards for Inter. Eriksen at regista and Alexis up top could really alter the attacking threat for Inter and provide a spark that has not quite been there recently, but Young at wingback, Gagliardini as a physical midfield presence, and Darmian at center back risk compromising a consistent and strong Inter defense. An attacking team such as Sassuolo will try to capitalize on these changes while Inter look to still shut up shop and hit on the counter. It has worked for the Nerazzurri in the past, but it might be tighter than it was earlier in the season.