Inter are on the verge of sealing a top-four finish, while Atalanta must win both their matches and get some help to have a shot.
Serie A Week 37 – Saturday 27 May 2023 – Stadio San Siro | Preview by Enrico Passarella
Inter struggled but held on in the latter portions of the Coppa Italia final against Fiorentina. They and Simone Inzaghi have a real knack for winning cups at this point. We’ll see whether that will be enough to upset the odds against Manchester City, and you never know what could happen in a single-elimination game. They are surely very comfortable playing the counter-attacking game thanks to Lautaro Martinez, Romelu Lukaku, and their wingbacks’ prowess in such area of the game. Their defense would have to hold up though, and that’s a whole different can of worms. They will be underdogs, but they won’t go in already defeated.
It looks like the doubts about the future of Simone Inzaghi have dissipated since he voiced his commitment too after the officials confirmed him multiple times. Triumphs cure all wounds after all. Still, the negotiation to prolong his short-term contract will be fascinating, and the length of the new pact will be telling about whether they fully trust him, or if they were forced to come to terms by the circumstances. These trophies are all fun and good, but it’ll take a Scudetto for the gaffer to etch himself into the football elite, and he squandered a tasty chance last season.
It’d be tough to close the sizeable gap with Napoli in one summer in a normal situation, and they are unlikely to bolster the squad too significantly given their financial constraints. However, the Partenopei seem headed for seismic changes, and that could easily impact their performances especially early on. Moreover, the Nerazzurri have surely underperformed for a long while in Serie A once they realized they wouldn’t compete for the title. An autocorrection will come naturally. They and Milan, which will probably be the most active side on the transfer market and could make a big jump with the right moves, will be the most serious threats to the reigning champions.
The chatter about potential departures has considerably quieted thanks to the Champions League bonanza. It remains to be determined whether they’ll still need to cash in on somebody to make the numbers work or if they will be fine simply by not spending a lot. Teams’ finances are always obscure, and the reports are never too trustworthy because the execs feeds the press whatever suits them, and journalists tend to carry the water for the various teams anyway. Their success surely helps them with a few contractual negotiations that are pending as well.
The one addition they will have to make for certain is another defender due to Milan Skriniar’s departure. But they can realistically go into the season with Matteo Darmian as the starter and a prospect or a reliable cheap veteran behind him. Though, given his versatility, it also hinges on Denzel Dumfries and Raoul Bellanova and their plans for the right flank. The lessons of the last few months are that, firstly, they need to rotate like a normal team rather than running their starters into the ground, and, secondly, they can use a couple more backups, especially in the midfield.
Roberto Gagliardini, who will leave on a free, should be replaced with a much better player. Kristjan Asllani should and will feature more in his second season, but they need another energetic box-to-box, as Nicolò Barella is the only pure one, while all the other contributors are more technical. Moreover, Marcelo Brozovic, Hakan Calhanoglu, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan aren’t spring chickens, and they deal with the occasional muscular injury. It’s a little weird that they aren’t more active on the free agent market, a Giuseppe Marotta specialty, which may hint that their economic firepower is uncertain or scarce.
The broadcasters mandated them to play just three days after the cup final. However, there’s no midweek contest on the horizon, so their formation might not be as reserve-filled as previous domestic matches. They are short on some roles, but it’s a comfortable place to be when such group includes players of the caliber of Stefan De Vrij, Robin Gosens, and de facto Lukaku. Plus, the battle to be in the XI in Istanbul is on.
Expected XI (3-5-2): Onana; D’Ambrosio, De Vrij, Acerbi; Dumfries, Barella, Brozovic, Calhanoglu, Gosens; Martinez, Lukaku.
Doubts: D’Ambrosio/Darmian, Acerbi/Bastoni, Brozovic/Asllani.
Injury Report: Mkhitaryan (thigh distraction), Correa (calf distraction), Skriniar (back surgery) – Out.
Atalanta never had a consistent month-long run filled with victories this year, instead constantly proceeding with peaks and valleys. Juventus’ point deduction gives them a chance to make the top four, but they’ll have to run the slate and get some help. Even though the situation of the Bianconeri was totally predictable, they haven’t shown the proper sense of urgency, and they have been satisfied with simply returning to Europe after a year rather than truly going for it. An uber-motivated squad would have never lost to Salernitana after the opponents had already secured their seasonal objective.
It has been a weird season where their new crop of players has shown big flashes but hasn’t taken over completely. The old guard is still kicking in some roles, but ultimately injuries were its demise in others. Luis Muriel never really got it going, while Duvan Zapata suffered a calf strain just as he had recaptured his dominant form. It’s not ideal, but they kind of have to keep a foot in two shoes and can’t just jettison their veterans. The reason is that, when one of their prodigies blossoms, they cash in on him relatively quickly, at most holding on for one or two windows. It’s a common modus operandi among second-tier teams in Italy, but it’s frustrating. Clubs never truly elevate themselves permanently fashion with this strategy. Therefore, they need the corporate knowledge of players that have been here for a few years to usher in the replacements.
Their new American co-owner Stephen Pagliuca hasn’t been here for that long, but most statements by their execs lead to believe that their approach won’t change much. All eyes will be on Rasmus Hojlund, Giorgio Scalvini, and Teun Koopmeiners in the summer. A clean sweep is improbable given the offers they will receive, but they’d be in a decent spot if they managed to keep ahold of two of them.
One of their main issues this year, on top of injuries and lack of form in certain players, is that their style no longer catches anybody off-guard. Basically half the league uses it now. They no longer benefit from the competitive advantage stemming from the heightened level of aggression of intensity. The quality, attention to detail, and some mental aspects that could potentially compensate for that and propel them haven’t always been on point.
Some rumors suggest Gian Piero Gasperini could be on his way out, but that has happened a few times in the past to no avail. His personality might be too abrasive and his style too demanding for a top team, which was manifest in his brief Inter stint, but enough time has passed for somebody else to take a shot, especially if they have to go through some sort of rebuild. There’s no shortage of young gaffers that would be ready to make the leap to this intermediate level and would allow them to have tactical continuity. It might be an either/or situation. If they think the roster will mostly stay the same, they might bring in a fresh voice to shake things up and see if it could lead to improvements. Instead, if they are plotting multiple departures, then it’s better to stay the course in the dugout and lean on the old reliable.
Expected XI (3-4-2-1): Sportiello; Toloi, Djimsiti, Scalvini; Maehle, Ederson, De Roon, Zappacosta; Pasalic, Koopmeiners; Hojlund.
Doubts: Zappacosta/Okoli, Ederson/Lookman, Pasalic/Muriel.
Injury Report: Hateboer (ACL tear), Ruggeri, Palomino, Soppy (thigh strain), Zapata (calf strain) – Out, Boga (ankle sprain) – Questionable; Zappacosta (ankle sprain) – Probable.
Inter Win – Over 2.5 goals