Without putting too much of a negative spin on this fixture, it is safe to say that both Cagliari and Inter have had more important matches to play in the past. With Inter crowned Scudetto champions last week and Cagliari sitting comfortably in ninth position, with little probability of moving up or down before the league’s final standings – the pressure will be off on both teams. Optimists will hope that this constitutes an enjoyable, open game of football, where the onus will be on the attacking players to entertain the crowd. Whilst Jose Mourinho’s stewardship has seen the team take on a more cautious approach compared to when Roberto Mancini was at the helm, this Inter side still possess some fantastic footballers and should be capable of putting on a show for their fans. Cagliari, on the other hand, has surprised everyone this season with their refreshing emphasis on attack rather than defence, contrary to the ‘Italian way’. It is difficult to see Coach Massimiliano Allegri changing his tactics when the opportunity is on offer to give their supporters a proper send off by turning over the best team in the country.
The Rossoblu has a group of committed, if not the most talented, players who have shown themselves to be a difficult team to beat this season. The strike force of Roberto Acquafresca, currently on loan from the Nerazzurri, and the Brazilian Jeda have caused problems for many defences this year, scoring twelve goals each. The Cagliari tifosi will expect their partnership to dovetail once more, with captain Daniele Conti pulling the strings in midfield. Allegri will be hoping that goalkeeper Federico Marchetti and his defence can re-capture their mid-season form, after shipping 12 goals in their last four matches. Considering the fact that Cagliari lost their first five games of the season, to finish in the top half of the table is quite a feat on behalf of Allegri and his charges. They will want to end the season in style against Mourinho’s men, and with a clean bill of health on the injury front, they will have no better chance to do so.
14 Pisano – 6 Lopez – 21 Canini – 31 Agostini
23 Fini – 5 Conti – 8 Biondini
9 Acquafresca – 27 Jeda
The side that Mourinho will pick is extremely difficult to predict – he could well take the Sir Alex Ferguson route and give some youngsters and reserve team players a chance to impress. Nonetheless, there are individuals that have been instrumental to il Biscione’s success who won’t want to sit this one out, for various reasons. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is currently battling for the Capocannoniere award and will be desperate to add to his tally, while Luis Figo will want to feature in both of the Nerazzurri’s remaining games before his retirement at the end of the season. Hernan Crespo, who is reported to be on the verge of a move to Fiorentina, will not take part due to an injury. For the same reason, Maxwell, Rivas, Bolzoni and long-term loss Maicon will miss the clash. While the personnel could change, it is likely that Mourinho will proceed with the flexible 4-3-3 come 4-5-1 formation that has served the team well this season – culminating in their Scudetto success.
12 Julio Cesar
4 Zanetti – 2 Cordoba – 25 Samuel – 26 Chivu
5 Stankovic – 19 Cambiasso – 20 Muntari
7 Figo – 8 Ibrahimovic – 45 Balotelli
Just like Mourinho’s team selection, this encounter is a tough one to call. Inter, in reality, has nothing to play for, and so perhaps their Portuguese Tactician would be advised to pick a side full of enthusiastic youth players to complement Ibrahimovic and Figo, who still have something vested in the game. Cagliari will have been buoyed by their impressive 1-1 draw and performance in the San Siro earlier this season, where Acquafresca scored against his parent club, and should be in confident mood. However, they have slumped a bit as of late, including a 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Palermo – arguably they have allowed themselves to ease up a bit since their Serie A status was secured. This could be a goal-fest, if Ibrahimovic and Acquafresca are up for it, and hopefully a decent advert for Italian football.