Coppa Italia holders Inter Milan will be keen to register a win in their first home game of the Serie A campaign against Spezia on Saturday.

Inter Milan will be keen to secure Scudetto glory again after falling short against arch-rivals AC Milan last season in the Serie A title race. They were, however, far from convincing in the season opener against Lecce and had to rely on a 95th-minute winner from Denzel Dumfries to secure all three points. A return to home comforts is on the cards, and the Nerazzurri will be aiming to treat their fans with a match-winning display.

Spezia have never defeated Inter in their history and will have a tough ask this weekend. I Aquilotti had the second worst defence in the Italian top flight last season and largely employed an entertaining brand of football under Thiago Motta. He was, however, replaced by Luca Gotti despite guiding the side to a 16th-placed finish.

The game will be tricky given the visitors’ newfound solidity at the back, and Inter will do well to remain on their toes. With Milan strengthening a title-winning side in the summer and Juventus also showing vestiges of form, Simone Inzaghi cannot cede any ground in the title race. Every point will be crucial, and he will be aware of it following the narrow miss last season.

It promises to be a David vs Goliath clash at the Giuseppe Meazza this weekend, and Inter go into the game as favourites. The home side have it all to do though, and much could depend on how well they can get into top gear. The Hard Tackle looks at how both sides could line up on Saturday and what tactics they might employ.

Team News & Tactics

Inter Milan

Simone Inzaghi’s men scored early in their season opener against Lecce but struggled to see the game out. It appeared to be heading to a 1-1 draw only for Dumfries to snatch a victory at the death. The lack of cutting edge will not have been lost on the Nerazzurri boss, who will expect his side to showcase their quality in front of the home fans.

A rather unimpressive pre-season only adds to the concerns that Inter have become far too predictable. Inzaghi has failed to offer alternatives to his 3-5-2 system, and it could be put to the test against a similar operator in Luca Gotti.

Inter go into the tie with a nearly full-strength squad at their disposal. Danilo D’Ambrosio’s return leaves Dalbert as the lone unavailable senior star in the squad. Inzaghi is likely to stick with a 3-5-2 formation. Samir Handanovic will start in goal while the back three of Alessandro Bastoni, Stefan de Vrij and Milan Skriniar choose themselves.

Marcelo Braozovic will be tasked with anchoring the midfield, and setting the tone for Hakan Calhanoglu and Nicolo Barella to impact proceedings upfield. How well the trio can win the midfield battle will decide the impact that Robin Gosens and Denel Dumfries can have from wing-back positions.

The loss of Ivan Perisic will impact Inter’s ability to make an impact from left-back. Gosens is, however, a dynamic operator, and as long as he reproduces the form he showcased at Atalanta, he will grow into the role for Inter. Dumfries looked good against Lecce last time out and will be keen to build upon his goal-scoring heroics in the matches to come.

Romelu Lukaku enjoyed a goal-scoring return to Serie A last weekend and will reprise his Scudetto-winning partnership with Lautaro Martinez upfront. The duo will be keen to repeat their heroics from the 2020/21 campaign, and there is no place home to remind fans that the connection has been re-established.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Handanovic; Bastoni, De Vrij, Skriniar; Gosens, Calganoglu, Brozovic, Barella, Dumfries; Martinez, Lukaku

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Spezia

Luca Gotti’s arrival has helped add some much-needed steel to the Aquilotti defence, and they went on to keep a clean sheet on the opening day win over Empoli. This newfound solidity at the back could aid them well as they look to extend their stay in the Italian top flight.

Spezia will be without several players including former skipper Giulio Maggiore who has refused to take to the field since losing his captaincy. Gotti will also be without Janis Antiste, Kelvin Amian and Salva Ferrer. Aimar Sher is available after returning from injury but does not make the squad for the trip to Milan.

The Ligurians are likely to deploy in a 3-5-2 themselves on the night. While it would be a stretch to expect them to go toe to toe against Inter, Gotti and co could make life difficult for the Nerazzurri. New signings Bartlomiej Dragowksi and Mattia Caldara were both impressive against Empoli and are solid defensive additions.

Having crushed Como 5-1 in the Coppa Italia earlier this month, Spezia are in good form and will go into the tie reasonably confident of causing an upset.

Bartlomiej Dragowski will start in goal behind the centre-back trio of Dimitrios Nikolaou, Jakub Kiwior and Mattia Caldara. The numbers at the back should give Emmanuel Gyasi and Arkadiusz Reca some freedom to get forward. How well the duo can compete against Gosens and Dumfries could decide who enjoyed better penetration in attack.

Dumfries especially is less disciplined in defence, and drawing out Barella to support him could give Spezia the numbers in midfield to overwhelm Brozovic. Kevin Agudelo and Simone Bastoni will need to be at their best and cannot afford to give Barella or Calhanoglu space to run into.

M’Bala Nzola broke his lengthy drought by netting the winner against Empoli and will be keen to repeat his heroics at the Giuseppe Meazza. With Daniele Verde absent from the squad, David Strelec could partner him up top.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Dragowski; Nikolaou, Kiwior, Caldara; Reca, Bastoni, Bourabia, Agudelo, Gyasi; Nzola, Strelec

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Key Stats

  • Inter Milan are undefeated against Spezia in a run that stretches to four Serie A games and two Coppa Italia ties. The Nerazzurri have won five of the meetings so far with one ending in a draw.
  • Inter Milan have won 17 of the last 18 games they played at home against clubs based in Liguria.
  • Inter Milan have kept a clean sheet in their last three games against Ligurian clubs. Another shutout on Saturday will see them stretch that record to four games for the first time since 2010.
  • Inter Milan have failed to produce a single draw in their last ten Serie A games. Their record in that time stands at nine wins and one loss.
  • Spezia have failed to win five of their last six away games against Lombardy-based sides. Curiously, the last time they secured all three points was against AC Milan at San Siro.

Player to Watch

Romelu Lukaku

The hero returns to Inter Milan. (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)
The hero returns to Inter Milan. (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

The Belgian enjoyed a goal-scoring return to Serie A last weekend against Lecce. Lukaku was the star player as Inter won the 2020/21 Serie A title under Antonio Conte. His time at Chelsea was forgetful at best, and a return to the Giuseppe Meazza offers him a chance at redemption.

Lukaku’s ability will be familiar to the home faithful, but it remains to be seen how well he can rekindle the partnership with Lautaro Martinez under Inzaghi. At 29, the experienced marksman has a proven pedigree in the Italian top flight and can use his physicality to great effect. He can also function as a target man, leaving Martinez space to drop back into while also offering Barella openings to run into.

Spezia had the second worst defence in the Serie A last season and despite strengthening their roster, they could have a difficult time shackling the Belgian. Lukaku is capable of the splendid and the ridiculous, and a lot could depend on which version of him turns up on Saturday.

Prediction

Inter Milan 2-0 Spezia

While Spezia could offer resistance for a bit, it is difficult to see Inter secure anything short of three points at the Giuseppe Meazza. The Nerazzurri have been nigh on unbeatable at home in Serie A, and the run is unlikely to end anytime soon. The home side are also the better side on paper, and as long as they don’t shoot themselves in the foot, should be on course for an easy win.

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