This weekend sees top of the table Inter bidding to take a giant step closer to regaining the Scudetto as they host an unpredictable Lazio at the San Siro.
The Nerazzurri saw their lead at the summit reduced to seven points after a surprise defeat at lowly Napoli, courtesy of a second half strike from Marcelo Zalayeta. The defeat leaves Inter without a win from their last three league games after crucially letting leads slip against both Palermo and Juventus. With just five games of the campaign remaining, the title is still very much il Biscione’s to lose, but with rivals Milan continuing their impressive form with a comprehensive victory, any premature celebrations have been put firmly to bed.
Jose Mourinho will be sweating on the fitness of Douglas Maicon, Nelson Rivas and Francesco Bolzoni, who are all recovering from minor injuries and may struggle to make the game. Mourinho will, however, be boosted by the likely return of Sulley Muntari, who returns to the squad after injury. The Portuguese Tactician will have to do without the in-form startlet Mario Balotelli, with Julio Cruz set to come in to partner top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
12 Julio Cesar
39 Santon – 2 Cordoba – 25 Samuel – 26 Chivu
4 Zanetti – 19 Cambiasso- 20 Muntari – 7 Figo
9 Cruz – 8 Ibrahimovic
The visitors, meanwhile, have been somewhat unpredictable in recent weeks. Having recorded back-to-back victories against two top six sides in Genoa and rivals Roma, as well as progressing to the Coppa Italia final with an impressive victory over Juventus, the Biancocelesti suffered a disappointing 1-0 defeat at home to strugglers Atalanta last weekend. The defeat put a dent in the Azzurri’s European hopes after it appeared they had got back on track. Only the bottom four and Roma have conceded more this season than Lazio and with just nine clean sheets this term, under fire Coach Delio Rossi will be well aware that his side need to improve that record if they are to thwart Inter’s attacking threat and leave Rome victorious. One player Rossi will no doubt keep a close eye on is that of the league’s leading marksman Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swede has been in devastating form for Inter this term, scoring 20 times to help his side establish their place at the summit and the Sky Blues centre back pairing will have to be at their best to stop the talented hitman.
2 Lichtsteiner – 13 Siviglia – 22 Rozenhal – 3 Kolarov
5 Brocchi – 24 Ledesma – 8 Matuzalem – 17 Foggia
10 Zarate – 17 Rocchi
The head to head record between the two sides does not bode well for the visitors. The Biancocelesti have failed to beat Inter since a 2-1 victory in 2003 – a barren run stretching over six years and 15 encounters. The reverse fixture earlier in the season saw the Nerazzurri record a comfortable 3-0 victory with goals from Walter Samuel and Ibrahimovic as well as an own goal from Mobido Diakite. The sides also met four times last term, with Inter victorious in the corresponding fixture and claiming a 1-1 draw away from home, as well as edging a two legged Coppa Italia tie en route to winning lifting the trophy and claiming the domestic double.
Victory for the home side would put them tantalisingly close to yet another Scudetto regardless of Milan’s fortunes. However, defeat could see the Nerazzurri’s advantage at the top reduced to just four points. Meanwhile, Delio Rossi will hope his side can take advantage of a below par Inter as they attempt to re-ignite their European ambitions and improve on last season’s 12th place finish. Whilst European qualification is still a possibility via the Coppa Italia, Rossi will want to ensure a top six finish to relieve some of the pressure on him. Depending on other results this weekend, Lazio could move as high as seventh, keeping them firmly in contention for their ambitions of European football next term.