Inter supporters find themselves in the privileged position of being able to celebrate their title glory for the second time at the San Siro. Atalanta are this week’s visitors, a team that sit comfortably in mid-table following another satisfactory season, and who will want to test themselves against Italy’s finest to see how far they can go in the future. Rumours persist that Orobici Coach Luigi Del Neri will be leaving in the summer, which could well be a big loss for Atalanta considering the relative success the team has achieved under his stewardship in the last few years. The former Chievo Boss confirmed last week that he “didn’t know about his future” and despite being “touched by the appreciation of the fans”, he would be open to any ensuing offers. If his rumoured departure does indeed become a reality, surely Del Neri will want to give his supporters a performance to remember him by, and he could not have wished for a grander stage to leave a lasting impression than at the San Siro against José Mourinho’s Scudetto-winning superstars.
The triumvirate of attackers that Mourinho has consistently adopted throughout his career may well be refreshed for this fixture, with peripheral figures Victor Obinna and Amantino Mancini coming in to support top-scorer Zlatan Ibrahimović. Indeed, the Swede’s race to finish as the Capocannoniere is really the only vested interest in this fixture. With Ibra’s future still an issue of speculation, Mourinho is likely to order his players to supply his talisman with the required ammunition. The defence that turned out for last week’s defeat to Cagliari will probably stay the same, as Júlio César and Walter Samuel are still missing, along with long-term absentee Maicon. Francesco Toldo will don the gloves once more for his 147th appearance for the Nerazzurri, joining experienced trio Nicolás Burdisso, Marco Materazzi and Cristian Chivu in assisting exciting young full-back Davide Santon. Patrick Vieira is expected to line up in midfield, for what could well be his last game in Italy, with a move back to France more a probability than a possibility.
39 Santon – 16 Burdisso – 23 Materazzi – 26 Chivu
4 Zanetti – 19 Cambiasso – 14 Vieira
21 Obinna – 8 Ibrahimovic – 33 Mancini
The big news regarding Atalanta’s line-up is the absence of star striker Sergio Floccari, who is missing through injury. According to reports, the Italian forward has already been signed by Genoa as a replacement for the Inter-bound Diego Milito, to the tune of £10 million. Coming in for Floccari should be Gianvito Plasmati, who will partner club hero Cristiano Doni in attack. Doni played a vital role in putting Inter to the sword earlier in the season in their 3-1 home victory, and Mourinho’s men will be extremely wary of his presence. Plasmati himself is in fine form having netted twice against Palermo at the weekend, so there could be quite a battle between the Orobici forwards and Inter’s ageing back-line. Brazilian Adriano Ferreira Pinto, midfielder Diego De Ascentis and tricky Chilean Jaime Valdés make up the rest of the list of injured players unavailable to Del Neri.
6 Bellini – 27 Capelli – 5 Manfredini – 13 Peluso
34 Defendi – 21 Cigarini – 17 Guarente – 22 Padoin
10 Doni – 9 Plasmati
Inter suffered their first major upset of the season at the hands of Atalanta (if you discount their 1-0 deficit to arch-rivals Milan at the end of September), finding themselves 3-0 down after just 33 minutes. Considering that the Nerazzurri had been on a 14 game unbeaten streak, involving 10 wins and three draws, Mourinho and his players could be forgiven for being in a state of shock at the scoreline. Indeed, as the highlights clip below shows, Inter were lucky not to concede more as Atalanta missed further chances, and although it did not affect them in their long term goal of Scudetto success, it should have taught the Scudetto champions not to take Del Neri’s team lightly in this weekend’s clash. Nonetheless, a win and revenge for Mourinho has to be the tip going into the game, as Inter’s squad has so much strength in depth. With Floccari missing, and Ibrahimović itching to add to his tally of 23 goals this campaign, the smart money is on a comprehensive victory for the home team, similar to the dispatching of Siena two weeks ago.