Inter’s clinching of the Scudetto with four games to spare not only makes for a stress-free May, but it gives Antonio Conte room for experimentation in the lineup. With little preseason and a non-stop calendar since September, players like Romelu Lukaku and Nicolo Barella haven’t been at 100% for months. The UEFA European Championship is also coming up in June, and the workload on player’s legs is reaching levels of absurdity. But for the bottom half of Inter’s roster, this is the perfect chance for some long-awaited game time. The Nerazzurri's first-choice starting XI has been set in stone this season, leaving little time for bench players to get a look in. Now, though, Conte’s selection could be more equitable. Here are three players that are yet to make a name for themselves in the 2020/21 campaign, but are worth keeping watch on throughout the final four games of Inter’s season.
While Inter’s summer transfer market activity was rather subdued, Andrea Pinamonti’s return from Genoa still snuck in under-the-radar. And it’s no surprise that there was little fanfare; the striker has played only fifty minutes spread through five appearances for the Nerazzurri so far. Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez are of course some of the first names on the teamsheet, while Alexis Sanchez is always the foremost option off the bench. But even an out-of-position Ivan Perisic has started up front ahead of the 21-year-old. Though Conte has lauded Pinamonti’s growth in training and talked about his improvements since the season’s start, he doesn’t quite trust the Italian on the pitch. Even so, Pinamonti still has Serie A experience. He has 5 Serie A goals to his name from a stint at Genoa and made well over 20 starts last season for the Grifone. Now that Inter has the Scudetto wrapped up, it could be Pinamonti’s time to shine. Lukaku has gone 90 minutes almost every week for months and has 3,352 minutes on his legs, so a brief spell on the sidelines could help him bounce back to his top form just in time for the Euros. For Pinamonti, he could do enough to stay on the roster as the fourth striker next season or impress potential buyers where he’d see more match time.
Another player forced to dwell on the bench behind a locked-in starter is Andrei Radu. The 23-year-old Romanian keeper is yet to make an appearance this season after returning from a loan to Parma. He made 19 starts for the Crociati last season but fell down the pecking order by the midway point. Radu also has 52 appearances for Genoa under his belt from various loan spells. It appeared as though he would finally get a chance under Conte when Samir Handanovic tested positive for COVID-19 days prior to a clash against Sassuolo, but the game was instead postponed. Now, however, there’s nothing standing between him and the San Siro pitch. With Handanovic suffering several shaky moments this season, Inter is in need of a successor for the 36-year-old. While Radu may not be ideal, Inter’s finances could mean the Romanian is the only other option for the foreseeable future. Now it’s time for him to show what he’s capable of.
While Pinamonti and Radu may be relatively unknown names, Stefano Sensi has already made his mark. After a 20 million move from Sassuolo last summer, the Italian got off to a red-hot start in Milan. He notched three goals and four assists in 19 appearances in the fall of 2020, but missed the remainder of the season with injuries. Sensi again struggled with fitness in 2020/21 and has made only three starts (17 total appearances for 531 minutes of action). Even when available, the 25-year-old doesn’t seem to have Conte’s full trust. Gagliardini and Vidal have been the first options off the bench in lieu of Sensi and his only starts have come against teams ranked 17th, 18th, and 20th. Sensi did go 65 minutes last weekend against Crotone, so perhaps that’s a sign there will be more midfield rotation over the final weeks of the campaign. For Sensi, this could decide whether he stays in Milan beyond this season. While his quality is obvious from the handful of games he’s been available, if he can’t stay fit he could be one of the first out the door this summer.
Who are you most looking forward to seeing in the final four games of the season? Let us know in the comments below.