For the millions of Inter fans dotted across the globe, it feels as if an age has passed since they cheered their beloved team onto victory against a stubborn Empoli side on December 29th last year. It was a hard-fought triumph and a far cry from the sort of free-flowing football Luciano Spalletti’s men have shown glimpses of at San Siro during the first half of the Serie A campaign.
Indeed, the Nerazzurri could not have wished for a more inviting start to 2019, with consecutive home matches seeing Benevento and Sassuolo make the trip to Milan. Regardless of the incidents which took place prior to and during the now infamous Boxing Day clash versus Napoli which have resulted in a two-match stadium closure, there is no reason why Inter should not be beating Serie B’s Stregoni with relative ease.
As is always the case when a Serie B outfit takes on one of the so-called big sides, application will be everything. As long as the Beneamata match their opponents’ desire, the technical quality they possess within their ranks ought to be sufficient to see them secure a quarter-final berth. Failure to do so would of course raise further doubts about the aforementioned Spalletti’s trophy-winning credentials.
That said, Inter’s league form prior to the break was reasonably good as they claimed three wins and a draw from their four most recent matches. Only with that degree of consistency will they stand a chance of catching up with Napoli, who currently occupy second place, over the course of the next 19 rounds of fixtures. Indeed, Sunday’s encounter with Cristian Bucchi’s side provides an excellent opportunity for Spalletti and his players to set the right tone and get 2019 off to a perfect start.
Meanwhile, 21-year-old Argentine striker Lautaro Martínez spoke to ESPN on his way back to Italy following the Christmas holidays. He was keen to stress that he fully intends to remain an Inter player and fight for his place in the coach’s starting XI, despite being linked with loan switch back to Racing Club: “The idea is to play more and win a place in the team. Every day we train to improve and show the coach that we’re up to the task. I haven’t played much, but I think I’ve done well whenever I have. I’m having fun, the fans love me and I want to keep doing well.”
Lautaro was also open about his desire to cement his status as a regular member of the Argentine national team squad, while he hopes his former teammates at Racing Club are successful in their pursuit of a first league title since 2014: “It depends on the coach. I do my best to be called up. I am in touch with my former teammates, I want the best for them.”
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