After two months of summer doldrums, the beautiful and wacky thing that is Serie A is once again about to make a reappearance in our lives. The 121st season of Italy’s top flight will arrive this Saturday with the joint kickoff of Sampdoria/Atalanta and Milan/Udinese, followed by what we’re all waiting for: Inter vs Lecce. The Nerazzurri 2022/23 adventure and year 2 under Simone Inzaghi will begin with a visit to the Stadio Via del Mar and the newly promoted Giallorossi.
Lecce ended 2021/22 as Serie B champions with 71 points and a +28 goal differential, just 6 clear of 6th in what was a particularly wild season in the second division. In fact, only Brescia in 2018/19 had fewer points than Lecce as the champion of Serie B since the 2003/04 campaign. Led by 58-year-old manager Marco Baroni, Lecce generally plays out of a 4-3-3 and boasted the best defense and third-best attack in Serie B, though its squad was in desperate need of major renovations to meet the standard of Serie A. With that in mind, Lecce brought in 13 notable-ish signings including keeper Wladimir Falcone from Sampdoria, striker Lorenzo Colombo (Milan), fullback Gianluca Frabotta (Juve), and center back Mert Cetin (Hellas Verona). The departure of 2021/22’s top scorer Massimo Coda (20g, 8a) will leave a hole in the attack, however, and more pressure will fall on Brazilian winger Gabriel Stefezza (14g, 6a last season) to make the leap to Serie A. Early signs aren’t too promising, however, as shown by last week’s 3-2 home Coppa Italia defeat to Serie B side Cittadella in extra time.
This fixture is a bit of a deja vu for Inter after the Nerazzurri welcomed Lecce to the Meazza in Matchday One of the 2019/20 campaign, a game that ended 4-0 to the good guys with a certain Belgian striker marking his debut with a goal. Times have changed since then, but once again Romelu Lukaku will don a Nerazzurri kit against the southern side to open the curtains on a new season. Along with the loan arrival of Lukaku, Inter also added Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Raoul Bellanova, and Andre Onana. In turn, Ivan Perisic, Andrea Ranocchia, Matias Vecino, Arturo Vidal, and Alexis Sanchez were all offloaded. There are two more names that were all but confirmed to be Milano-bound at one point in time that is missing from the arrivals list, but nonetheless, Inter still improved over the summer. The question now is how soon/if we’ll see the 2019-2021 version of Lukaku back on the pitch and whether Inter’s slightly flimsy squad depth can prove up to the task. Plus, what will year 2 under Inzaghi look like after a hot start and stale second half last season? Not to mention, league football will be put on pause in just a few months for a rare winter (for the northern hemisphere) World Cup.
Inter has an overwhelming advantage in the all-time series against Lecce, with 25 wins, 7 draws, and just 4 losses to go with a +59 goal differential, though it was held to a draw in its last visit to Lecce back in 2020.
- 4-0 (H), 26/8/2019
- 1-1 (A), 19/1/2020
Predicted Starting XIs
Prediction: Lecce 1-3 Inter Milan
Inter will shake off an unconvincing preseason with a high-scoring win over Lecce headlined by a Lukaku brace and Barella strike, though the defensive worries will persist without a clean sheet.
For the first of many times this year, Forza Inter!