Inter’s poor performances caught up to it Wednesday in a 2-1 defeat to Sassuolo. Ever since the 5-1 win over Milan, the Nerazzurri haven’t quite looked anywhere near its best, and though it was able to scrape together results for a couple of weeks, Inter-killer Domenico Berardi made sure that the good guys would be unbeaten no longer. The good news, though, is that Inter gets its chance to move back into the win column and consign the Sassuolo defeat to the past as soon as this Saturday when Simone Inzaghi’s men take the show on the road to Salernitinana. The bad news is that the reward for facing off against Berardi, who has the most goals against Inter of any active player, is to take on the man second on that list, Antonio Candreva.
Other than a few moments of magic from the seemingly ageless Antonio Candreva (leading the charts with 2 goals and 1 assist), who scored a brace of wonder goals against Roma on Matchday 1, Salernitana’s third straight campaign in Serie A has been one to forget so far. It’s 17th on 3 points, one of four teams yet to find a win through five matchdays, and continuing a worrying trend from last season. The Granata pulled off an incredible escape from relegation in 21/22 but the mastermind of its salvation, Davide Nicola, was sacked (twice, actually) as results worsened last season. Paulo Sousa managed to steady the ship and haul Salernitana up to 15th, 11 points clear. The signs were there, though, and this season has seen old concerns reappear with a menace. Salernitana has conceded 9 (the 3rd highest tally in the league) and scored 4 (4th fewest), with its lowest point yet coming in a midweek defeat to previously win and goalless Empoli.
The absence of Boulaye Dia, last season’s star man with 16 goals and 6 assists, has been particularly tough to overcome. The Senegalese international has just one start and one goal to his name this campaign after the fallout from a failed transfer away. With no big payday, almost all of Salernitana’s transfer outlay went to making loans (such as ex-Inter man Lorenzo Pirola’s) permanent, rather than upgrading the squad as it needed to be. Even for a team used to living on the margins, the line between safety and a dreaded relegation is mighty fine and Salernitana has given itself a limited margin for error.
Inter’s 2-1 loss to Sassuolo will hopefully serve as a bit of a wake-up call for the Nerazzurri. Its lead at the top of the table is now a thing of the past, with both Milanese sides level on 15 points, and just two ahead of Juventus. The Nerazzurri clearly can’t afford another slipup this weekend, but almost as important as the result will be the performance. Inter can’t and won’t get away with another stretch of stale showings as Sassuolo showed. Whether it’s a tactics question (Inter has struggled to an extreme against deep blocks and without much space in behind) or poor individual performances (Nicolo Barella especially), something needs to change before any more points are dropped at this stage of the season.
Inter leads the all-time series with a 5W-1D-2L record, including a win and draw last season.
Predicted Starting XIs
Prediction: Salernitana 0-2 Inter Milan
Inter won’t be back to its best just yet, but it will be improved from Wednesday and take all three points from Salernitana thanks to a return to the goal sheet from Lautaro with a brace.