Are the Nerazzurri poised to upset the Old Lady?
Background Image: Gabriele Barberis, CC by 3.0
On paper, Inter don't stand a chance. The Allianz Stadium is dread for any team. The Nerazzurri came away broken and battered after their last seven visits. It was difficult to score, let alone win. At the moment, Juventus’ confidence is at an all-time high. Never mind Cristiano Ronaldo, the rest of the squad is imperious. Then again...
Although 11 points adrift, a shocker could just be on the cards this Friday.
Considering the manner Napoli wrestled Juve last term, Massimiliano Allegri's Old Lady was expected to reach menopause this season. The Southern club gave a good fight, but the ‘Sarri Ball’ altars dissented. A club record 91 points weren't enough. Although still a distance off, Inter and AS Roma showed incredible progress too, closing the gap on the Scudetto tyrants. Lazio and AC Milan made inroads as well.
However, it’s been that same, boring script. Almost midway through the campaign, the Old Lady isn't showing her age. She has an eighth consecutive Scudetto in sight. The Bianconeri are unbeaten in 14 Serie A games, losing the maximum points just once against Genoa. Napoli tracks blindly, eight points behind.
Talk's begun about a potentially unbeaten campaign. As in 2012/13, the Turin warriors toss aside all supposed title rivals. Lazio and Napoli suffered 2-0 and 3-1 defeats respectively. While the pair could be pardoned for attempting a revolution on the road, AC Milan took huge blows in their own backyard. Their San Siro co-tenants are next in line.
Inter's a tough nut to crack, however. The Derby d'Italia is often unpredictable and tense. Similar to the Old Lady, the Nerazzurri, are running a fine streak. After a slow start, scratching five points from their opening four matches, Luciano Spalletti's men have reached for their ardour. Admittedly forced to share spoils with Roma, they’ve achieved impressive wins over Milan, Lazio and Genoa.
Spalletti's sturdy philosophy is paying off. Slowly but steadily, the bullet-headed Tuscan grinds out results. With the right blend of motivation and tactics, he's built a resolute defence while nurturing his prolific attackers. He could change the complexion of the Serie A if it all comes together tonight.
Spalleti isn't afraid to make adjustments. He switched to a 4-3-3 system against Roma but may revert to 4-2-3-1 to curtail Juve's deadly trio led by Ronaldo. With Stefan de Vrij and Milan Skriniar anchoring the back, there isn't much to fret. It's said Donald Trump has contacted the pair about standing along the Mexican border. That's the type of wall they form. Their impenetrability has kept the capable Miranda out of the first team. In 14 matches, the pair conceded just a dozen goals. Of course, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci are the only partnership to better that.
Ronaldo currently leads the goal log with 10 but Mauro Icardi intends to reclaim his throne. The Argentine has two less at the moment. Serie A's reigning top scorer and player of the year, his superb understanding with the creative Ivan Perisic drives Inter up the table. Then again, the in-form Balde Keita could be the joker in Spalletti's deck.
In his last two starts, the former Barcelona prodigy produced three goals. Keita's made a mere five Serie A starts for Inter but leads them in shots and chances created. Combined with the clinical Icardi and unpredictable Perisic, the Old Lady will have their hands full. Football isn't played on paper.