Inter’s Wednesday night Coppa Italia round of 16 against Bologna went far from planned, with not only insult in the form of a 2-1 loss but also injury to Lautaro Martinez. Nonetheless, the Nerazzurri don’t have any time to recover from its wounds, hurtling back into action this weekend against Lecce.
The newly promoted side currently sits 12th on 20 points, a safe 8 clear of relegation. Lecce’s underlying expected goals numbers, which rank second-worst, suggest a downturn in form might be on the horizon, but for now, Roberto D’Aversa’s side is five games unbeaten and has pulled off draws against sides like Fiorentina, Milan, and Bologna, along with a victory over Lazio. Lecce doesn’t have any particular standout qualities - its attack ranks 11th best while its defense is 13th - but it has few glaring weaknesses either. Combined with some final third quality in the form of Lameck Banda (2 goals, 4 assists), Nikola Kristovic (4g), and Roberto Piccoli (3g), that makes Lecce a difficult team to get the better of and quite capable of causing a tired Inter problems.
Though Simone Inzaghi wasn’t afraid to rotate, Inter’s Coppa outing with Bologna went to extra time and heavy minutes couldn’t be avoided for a number of starters. Lecce on the other hand had a full week to prepare for Saturday, so Inter will want to have the result secured before tired legs begin to set in. The loss of Lautaro adds another spanner into the works, putting pressure on Marcus Thuram to carry the attacking load amidst Marko Arnautovic’s complete ineffectiveness. Thanks to Juve’s draw at Genoa last week, the good guys have a four-point lead atop Serie A, but it would be a horrible waste to throw away the newfound cushion so soon against a more beatable opponent such as Lecce. Inzaghi and the players are surely aware of that, though, and should be able to put the disappointment from Wednesday behind them as soon as possible.
Inter has a 27W-7D-4L lead in the all-time series, including a 2022/23 season sweep.
Predicted Starting XIs
Prediction: Inter Milan 2-1 Lecce
Lecce will make Inter sweat for it, but the Nerazzurri’s domestic winning streak will remain intact thanks to a Thuram brace, with the Frenchman filling Lautaro’s boots admirably.