Inter’s Jekyll and Hyde performances are getting a bit tiring. Sure, beating Milan 3-0 was a load of fun. But it’s hard to enjoy it that much when the Nerazzurri turn around and fall flatter than a pancake at home against Empoli just a few days later. Inter’s next test, and a dreaded away game no less, is against 20th-placed Cremonese, still winless with half of the campaign in the books. Should be an easy one, right?
Not so fast. The newly promoted side sacked manager Massimiliano Alvini after a 3-2 defeat to Monza two weeks ago and has since gone undefeated under relegation escape expert Davide Ballardini. Though last weekend’s draw at Bologna wasn’t much to write home about, Cremonese managed to knock Napoli out of the Coppa Italia on penalties and have improved under Ballardini. It remains 20th on 8 points, however, 7 short of safety. Its attack and defense are both the second-worst in the league with only 14 tallies scored and 33 conceded.
Ballardini’s 3-5-2 formation has helped shore things up a bit defensively but it remains to be seen where the goals are going to come from; in both games under the seasoned manager, Cremonese registered just 2 shots on target. A 75% conversion rate doesn’t seem likely to continue without major improvement from David Okereke (4 goals) or Cyriel Dessers (3 goals). Even then, it would probably take a perfect winter transfer market to save Cremonese, and there aren’t many signs of that happening.
Juventus’ point deduction and defeats for Milan and Inter have plunged Serie A into chaos. The title race might not be much of a thing anymore - Napoli is 12 clear and showing no signs of stopping - but the European spots are a jumbled mess. Milan is second with 38 points, while Inter lurks in 4th, tied on 37 with both Rome clubs. Atalanta isn’t far behind either, and Juventus is likely to shoot back up the table sooner than we might expect (the points deduction is up for appeal and there’s no guarantee it remains).
In short, Inter can not afford anything less than three points this weekend. The club’s financial situation is bad enough now, but a season without Champions League money really would be a knockout blow.
Inter has a hefty lead in the all-time series, which sits at 15W-4D-3L in the good guys’ favor, including a 3-1 win earlier this season.
Predicted Starting XIs
Prediction: Cremonese 1-3 Inter Milan
Inter will do enough to take all 3 points back to Milano, headlined by a brace from Lautaor Martinez and a late Edin Dzeko strike.