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Andrea Stramaccioni is busy re-building his team. Aditya Bajaj focusses on what the Nerazzurri have in store for the new Italian term...

Another one of the elites amongst the teams from the peninsula, and another club that, just like Roma, suffered one of their worst campaigns in history finishing 6th on the table last season, somehow settling in for a place in the Europa League. Inter have only gone downhill since their treble winning season with Jose Mourinho back in 2010, and have since witnessed everything from Samuel Eto’o leaving to a change of manager once every six months over the past two years with 36-year old Andrea Stramaccioni the latest in line to steady the ship.

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FORMATION
4-3-1-2


New signing Samir Handanović has already usurped out-of-favour Julio Cesar between the posts, and though injured at the moment is expected to take his place from Castellazi once he fully recovers from the recent knee injury he suffered in training. With Maicon’s future up in the air, Javier Zanetti is the favourite to take up the slot at the right side of the defense alongside Walter Samuel or Andrea Ranocchia and new signing Matias Silvestre in the centre with Yuto Nagatomo battling with Alvaro Pereira for a place on the left to complete what looks like a much revamped and youthful defense from last year.
 
Esteban Cambiasso, Walter Gargano and Freddy Guarin are set to complete the midfield trio for Stramaccioni.  Having been linked to a move away to Old Trafford every summer since the treble winning run two seasons ago, Wesley Sneijder showed glimpses of his prime under their new coach towards the end of last season and will hope to stimulate Inter towards the Champions League in his favourite role as the trequartista, unlike the previous two seasons where he was mismanaged by the outgoing coaches who played him out of position. Expect him to provide executive service to the Argentine duo of Diego Milito and the newly signed Rodrigo Palacio, as they lead the line for the blue and black half of the fashion capital. Also, newly signed Italy international Antonio Cassano will have a major role to play this season if at all Stramaccioni  feels the need for more creativity upfront alongside the Dutch playmaker, in which case he will be replacing either one of the two Argentine strikers upfront.

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THE MANAGER

Having sacked four different managers since the departure of the irreplaceable Jose Mourinho in 2010, Inter finally seem to have found a long term solution to their managerial problems after they appointed interim coach Andrea Stramaccioni as the permanent manager this season. Much was said about the 36-year old as he took over the reins of the team from Claudio Ranieri towards the end of the season with Inter destined to finish as low as 10th on the table, but he raised many an eyebrow as his Inter side just missed out on a Champions League spot in the last two matches of the campaign settling in for sixth.
 
Having proved himself as the manager of the primavera, skepticism however gave way to hope when his attack minded side thrashed cross-city rivals AC Milan by four goals to two all but ending their cousins’ slim hopes of retaining the Scudetto. He passed his first major test and having garnered 17 points out of a possible 27, the management thought he had done enough to prove himself as he was appointed permanently with a view that he would start the revolution with the next generation of Inter players as they hope to get back to the pinnacle of their game once again this season.
 
Much of the credit for Sneijder’s return to form goes to this young man, as he restored the new appointed Dutch captain’s confidence and in a way brings about natural man-management skills on the table, something that his ‘experienced’ predecessors certainly did not.

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TRANSFER ZONE

Signings made:
 
Inter have been very active in the transfer market this summer having purchased as many as seven players bringing in a mix of youth and experience to the side. They have signed a proven goal scorer in Rodrigo Palacio who scored a total of 21 goals in 34 appearances for Genoa last season, and seems to have settled in well with his Argentine strike Diego Milito. Having released the experienced Lucio to Juventus, the club has done well to bring in another Argentine in Matias Silvestre on loan from Palermo, who is also set to form an Argentine partnership at the back with veteran defender Walter Samuel. Not to forget the signing of Slovenian keeper Samir Handanović from Udinese who has proved to be a very reliable custodian during his time between the posts for the Zebrette, where he established a name for himself as an penalty specialist having saved six during the 2010-11 season, tying an all-time league record set in the 1948-49 season. They have also signed the highly rated Alvaro Pereira from Porto.
 
The midfield has been strengthened with the addition of Freddy Guarin from FC Porto, whose loan last season was made permanent this July and the acquisition of Gabin Mudingayi from Bologna. However, the return of young Brazilian attacking midfielder Phillipe Coutinho who was on loan at Espanyol in Spain seems to be their brightest addition as he is expected to finally realize his full potential this season if his pre-season form is anything to go by.
 
Their biggest signings, however,  seem to be the surprise arrivals of Antonio Cassano from across the city as he changes dressing rooms at the San Siro with former teammate Giampolo Pazzini in a swap deal that has taken the peninsula by surprise and that of midfielder Walter Gargano from Napoli . With very few creative options upfront, the Italian forward will certainly add that extra zing to the attack alongside the wizardry of Wesley Sneijder and Diego Milito, while the Uruguay international will add much needed steel and composure to the midfield after impressing most of Europe with his performances in the Champions League with Napoli last season.

Potential signings in crucial positions:

They could have made the biggest coup in Europe, had PSG not intervened in their bid to sign Brazilian wonder kid Lucas Moura who was eventually snapped by the free spending Parisians for a whopping figure of €44.5 million. With Manchester City’s hard hitting Dutch midfielder Nigel De Jong being heavily linked to the club in recent times  and with former Inter manager Mancini at the other side of the deal, Inter will hope to sign the defensive midfielder to eventually launch a good challenge this time around.

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STRENGTHS & WEAKNESSES

Strengths:

With the signings of Cassano and Palacio coupled with the return of a much matured version of Phillipe Coutinho, the attack certainly holds fort for Inter this season. Also, the return to form of their most creative player behind the strikers in Wesley Sneijder will prove crucial to the club’s chances as they look to challenge for a spot in the Champions League alongside the likes of Milan, Napoli, Roma and Udinese. Diego Milito’s return to goal scoring ways towards the second half of last season, was one of the few bright spots for the Nerazzurri during their campaign, and if he can get the ground running from the start this time around, expect a lot of goals from Inter this year.

Weaknesses:

The ageing midfield could prove to be a stumbling block to Inter’s chances this season, but the one major area of concern is their defense. With fitness concern hovering around the ageing Walter Samuel and Andrea Rannochia proving to be more of a liability than a reliable asset for the team, a lot of responsibility falls on the shoulder of new signing Matias Silvestre who will hope to replicate his form from last season with Palermo.

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PRE-SEASON FORM
Celtic
1-1 Inter
Hajduk
0-3
(Europa League)
Inter
Inter 0-2
(Europa League)
Hajduk
FC Vaslui
0-2 Inter

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PLAYER TO SHINE


A difficult choice to make when it comes to Inter as each player in the team this season has a point to prove, but that one player who’d hope to make the most of his homecoming has to be the young Philippe Coutinho. The 20-year old Brazilian, who was sent to Espanyol in the January transfer window, showed Inter exactly what they missed last season as he struck rich form scoring 5 goals in 16 appearances for the La Liga outfit. He has definitely grown as a player over the past six months and it could be his season if he proves to be the kind of player he was touted to be when Inter snapped him from Vasco Da Gama back in 2010. His versatility is his strength as he can easily slot into the role of a trequartista or a second striker as and when the need arises. With a healthy competition for places with the experienced but ageing duo of Palacio and Cassano, expect the young Brazilian to prove his detractors wrong as he goes into the season to rightfully reclaim his crown as the “future of Inter”.
 
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FANS SPEAK

Sushant Sen:
 
I’m very excited this season. After two miserable seasons, finally we have a squad that can compete for the Scudetto and are worthy of a top two finish. Stramaccioni seems like an interesting prospect and the way he has managed the side since taking over has been amazing. A lot will depend on Sneijder, however, as he is finally playing like the Wesley of old. The transfers have been good and the squad is no short in depth. I’m thrilled that a player like Cassano as joined the team, and his partnership with Milito will be fruitful.
 
Yasheel Anand Singh:
 
It’s a little weird to not see the team take part in the Champions League this season, but I think Inter should totally concentrate on the league. We are better than our cross-town rivals once again, and I can’t wait to see the derby because they have lost their best players and have sold one to us in Cassano.  We are still miles from being the club we used to be, but it’s a start that’s been delayed by at least two seasons, but better late than never I guess. Great signings in the form of Handanović, Cassano and Palacio as Inter appear to be heading the right direction under Stramaccioni.

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