The in-form champions visit a Sampdoria side who are coming off their first defeat of the season, but the Nerazzurri will need all three points to stay at the top of the table...
Kick-off: Saturday, September 26, 18:00 CET - Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Genoa
Sampdoria Back On Planet Earth After Fiorentina Defeat
After four consecutive wins in their first four Serie A matches, a record in Sampdoria’s history, Luigi Del Neri’s side fell to a bad defeat in midweek away to Fiorentina, who outclassed the Blucerchiati and could have won by a bigger margin than 2-0. As usual, Antonio Cassano was Sampdoria’s best player, but this time his individual class wasn’t enough for the Doriani to secure another win.
Cassano has undoubtedly been the main architect of this strong start to the season by Samp, which is something of a surprise since they are coming off a disappointing 13th place finish in Serie A last season, though they did reach the Coppa Italia final. Much of the credit should go to Del Neri, who will definitely aim to bring the team back into Europe this season.
However, the performance against Fiorentina was somewhat worrying, as Sampdoria never looked like they would get anything out of the game. It seems clear they suffered the psychological pressure of being one of the joint leaders and having all eyes aimed at them. Perhaps after this first defeat of the season, they will no longer feel that pressure and simply get the results they are capable of.
Against Inter, they’ll want to show their home fans that the defeat against the Viola was just a minor blip. In recent years they’ve often managed to trouble the Nerazzurri, particularly at the Stadio Marassi, where Inter have only won twice in the last six seasons. The last time the two teams met was on the first matchday of last season, when Zlatan Ibrahimovic gave Inter an early lead, before Gennaro Delvecchio equalised midway through the second half to earn a 1-1 draw at the final whistle.
Inter On A Roll
Last Wednesday Inter gave maybe their best performance of the season, along with the thumping derby win against Milan, as they swept aside Napoli 3-1. This has allowed them to catch Juventus at the top, who drew 2-2 away to Genoa on Thursday night. This will probably be the start of a long head-to-head battle between these two sides for the Scudetto, in keeping with most of the pre-season predictions.
Eventhough result-wise Inter’s start to the season has been positive, their performances haven’t always been completely convincing. There was a world of difference, for example, between their display against Napoli and the one away to Cagliari just three days earlier. For long parts of the latter game, they were outplayed and only two clinical strikes from Diego Milito allowed them to take home all three points.
It will be interesting to see if this match against Samp, only their second away game of the season, shows that Inter’s displays depend on whether they’re playing at home or away. It will certainly be a stern test, as the Blucerchiati have been doing well at the start of the season, aside from the defeat to Fiorentina on Wednesday night. However, if Milito and Samuel Eto’o keep getting their name on the scoresheet on a regular basis like they have been doing, Jose Mourinho’s team won’t need to worry too much if they aren’t playing great football.
Considering that Juventus have an easy-looking home game against Bologna, the pressure will be all on Inter to get a victory and ensure they remain at the top of the ladder.
September 23 v Fiorentina (A) – LOST 2-0 (Serie A)
September 20 v Siena (H) – WON 4-1 (Serie A)
September 13 v Atalanta (A) – WON 1-0 (Serie A)
August 30 v Udinese (H) – WON 3-1 (Serie A)
August 23 v Catania (A) – WON 2-1 (Serie A)
Septemebr 23 v Napoli (H) – WON 3-1 (Serie A)
September 20 v Cagliari (A) – WON 2-1 (Serie A)
September 16 v Barcelona (H) - DREW 0-0 (Champions League)
September 13 v Parma (H) – WON 2-0 (Serie A)
September 5 v Lugano (A) – DREW 3-3 (Friendly)
Franco Semioli suffered a fracture in his shoulder in last weekend’s match against Siena and will be out for around a month. Meanwhile, defenders Pietro Accardi and Vasco Regini are also out injured, while goalkeeper Vincenzo Fiorillo is with the Italian Under 20 national team at the World Cup.
Possible formation (4-4-2): Castellazzi; Stankevicius, Gastaldello, Rossi, Zauri; Padalino, Palombo, Tissone, Mannini; Pazzini, Cassano
Wesley Sneijder suffered a slight injury during the match against Napoli and won’t be a part of the match, Dejan Stankovic looks certain to fill in for him behind the two strikers. Marco Materazzi Thiago Motta are still out injured, while Sulley Muntari has been left out for tactical reasons.
Possible formation (4-3-1-2): Julio Cesar; Maicon, Lucio, Samuel, Chivu; Zanetti, Cambiasso, Vieira; Stankovic; Milito, Eto’o
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Antonio Cassano (Sampdoria)
Last summer there were rumours that suggested Inter wanted Cassano to fill the trequartista role behind the strikers, but recently president Massimo Moratti denied the Bari-born forward was ever a part of the club’s plans. However, considering the excellent performances he is delivering in every match for Sampdoria, it’s hard to see why. The 27-year-old is arguably the most skillful Italian player around at the moment, yet mysteriously he continues to be overlooked by Italy coach Marcello Lippi.
Diego Milito (Inter)
The former Genoa striker is proving to be a world-class signing by Inter. Aside from having scored five goals already, he is the most active player in the Nerazzurri’s attack and works hard for the team. If he keeps this up, the 30-year-old may end up equalling his goalscoring record of last season, when he netted 24 goals and finished just one strike behind top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the goalscorers’ charts.
Inter to earn a hard-fought victory.
Sampdoria 0-1 Inter