Inter Milan vs. Bologna: Coppa Italia Preview, Team News
Even though most Nerazzurri fans would accept a trophy-less season in return for a place in the top three—which guarantees Champions League football—Andrea Stramaccioni will be under no illusions that his honeymoon period at the helm of La Beneamata is coming to an end.
While Massimo Moratti would have accepted a period of transition in light of an incredible treble-winning season under Jose Mourinho, the Inter president will be hungry for a return to success very soon, which means that the Coppa Italia could take up greater emphasis for the Nerazzurri this season.
Bologna have tended to avoid any grander ambitions in recent times, favouring a single-minded approach to the league in order to ensure that they avoided relegation.
This season might be a little different, though, with the news that Stefano Pioli intends to play this game as if it were a league game, which can only add to the intrigue surrounding the tie.
Inter, on the other hand, will probably roll the dice with their team selection, knowing that home advantage and a more superior depth to their squad than their opponents will still make them favourites to progress in this tie and save some energy for the league game at the weekend.
Who needs a rest?
The Coppa Italia has always tended to be a competition that teams have experimented with and has provided some of their players who have found themselves on the periphery of the first team an opportunity to shine.
So regardless of the greater importance coming into the latter stages of the competition, some players will be handed a much-needed rest.
Inter have rested Samir Handanovic in goal in both Coppa Italia games so far this season, but second choice Luca Castellazzi is nursing a shoulder injury, so the Slovenian could yet start. Third choice Vid Belec will be in line to start otherwise, but the former Udinese stopper is favourite to get the nod.
Esteban Cambiasso is getting on in his illustrious career and will surely make way for the former Catania centre-back, Matias Silvestre, who has really struggled to get into the first team after the emergence of the young Brazilian, Juan Jesus.
Likewise, Javier Zanetti at the grand age of 40 will take a much-needed rest and make way for the returning Gaby Mudingayi, although McDonald Mariga is also pushing for a start.
The impressive Fredy Guarin could also be held back for the huge game with Roma this weekend as Stramaccioni could select the young prodigy, Marco Benassi for his third start of the season, all of which have come in this competition.
With Philippe Coutinho available again after injury, it appears like the perfect opportunity to give Rodrigo Palacio a rest and pair Antonio Cassano with the great Diego Milito.
Bologna, as stated before, intend to play a strong team, so there will be few omissions from the side that trounced Chievo at the weekend.
The injury prone Diego Perez should sit this one out, though, as the Uruguayan has struggled to play twice in a week all season. Michele Pazienza would appear to be the logical replacement as the pivot of the midfield.
Saphir Taider remains out injured, and Panagiotis Kone, while in the squad and currently enjoying a fine run of form of late, might be saved for the big game against Milan.
This means that Cristian Pasquato might be handed a start after a string of lively appearances off the bench. Alessandro Diamanti should join the 23-year-old in behind the veteran Alberto Gilardino, who bagged a brace at the weekend.
Key Battle: Coutinho Vs. Pazienza
Two players who have been out of their teams' lineups for differing reasons of late will have a great chance to impress in this pivotal battle that could decide the outcome of the game.
The Brazilian playmaker, Coutinho will operate between the lines and Michele Pazienza will be tasked with screening the space in between the midfield and Daniele Portanova and Frederik Sorensen—who could be exposed by Coutinho's trickery if forced to come out of defence to close down the space.
Young player to keep an eye on: Marco Benassi, Inter
The youngster has been described as a young Claudio Marchisio and has every skill in his locker to become a complete midfielder.
His passing repertoire is impressive, which is a good thing considering he is going to be playing next to a wall, and nothing much else, in Gaby Mudingayi.
Samir Handanovic; Matias Silvestre, Andrea Ranocchia, Juan Jesus; Jonathan Moriera, Gaby Mudingayi, Marco Benassi, Alvaro Pereira; Philippe Coutinho; Diego Milito, Antonio Cassano.
Federico Agliardi; Marco Motta, Daniele Portanova, Frederik Sorensen; Archimede Morleo; Tiberio Guarente, Michele Pazienza, Rene Krhin; Alessandro Diamanti, Cristian Pasquato; Alberto Gilardino.
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