Inter’s 2022/23 season continues to confound. Just days after beating Porto in the Champions League Round of 16, the Nerazzurri orchestrated a 1-0 loss to a clearly superior Bologna. Such inconsistency has been the theme of this campaign and is why Inter now has its hands full with a top-four race (although somehow the good guys are still 2nd place in this crazy league of ours despite so many slip-ups). Sunday’s clash with Lecce is only one more opportunity for Simone Inzaghi to be left with egg on his face against a team far below Inter in the standings.
After being crowned Serie B champions in 21/22, newly promoted Lecce is 15th on 27 points and has displayed a remarkable tendency to take points off the big teams in its first season back in the top flight. Marco Baroni’s side has beaten Atalanta (x2) and Lazio, tied Napoli, Roma, and Milan, and though it lost to Inter and Juve, it took late-game winners on both occasions to wrest a result out of Lecce’s hands. The Giallorossi’s backline is its stronghold, with just 27 conceded in 24 games (the 6th-best tally in Serie A). The defensive unit consists of names such as Federico Baschirotto, Valentin Gendrev, and ex-Barcelona man and World Cup winner Samuel Umtiti landed at Lecce over the summer (definitely a candidate for the Most Random Transfer of the Season award). Not quite a trio of names I ever thought I’d be writing in the same sentence.
Lecce’s midfield has also taken the league by storm from out of the blue, with 23-year-old Morten-Hjulmand and 21-year-old Joan Gonzalez particularly impressive and almost certain for a move to a bigger club this summer. The attack is where Lecce falters, and its numbers look par for the course for a newly promoted team with 24 tallies in 27 games (6th worst). Gabriel Stefezza (7g, 1a), Assan Ceesay (4g), and Milan-loanee Lorenzo Colombo (4g, 2a) form just about all of the attacking talent at Lecce’s disposal, which is clearly apparent in their play. Just take a look at last week’s 1-0 home loss to Sassuolo, in which Lecce managed 16 shots but couldn’t put a single one on target.
Though Inter remains 2nd, its haul of 47 points is only 3 ahead of 5th place Roma. And although the Nerazzurri do seem likely to finish the season top four, they’re rapidly showing that anything in possible, and dropping points to Lecce and being a rival win or two from falling out of the top four would put Inzaghi under heaps of pressure that aren’t exactly conductive of a positive environment at the San Siro.
Inter has a 26W-7D-4L lead in the all-time series against Lecce, though it needed a 95th-minute Denzel Dumfries winner to take all three points when these teams met in the reserve fixture this season.
- 1-2 (A), 13/8/22
Predicted Starting XIs
Prediction: Inter Milan 2-0 Lecce
With a full week of rest and the San Siro at its back, Inter will squeak past Lecce thanks to a Lautaro Martinez brace.