Without a win in four, Inter are in miserable form. Can they end this at home to Chievo on Sunday?
When the fixture list was concocted back in that heady summer of 2012, scant amounts of people were anticipating “Where were you when...” moments to be synonymous with Inter Milan’s matchup against Chievo.
And that's probably still the case. The once-mighty Inter Milan, title winners only two seasons ago, lie forlorn and usurped in fifth place. And plucky Chievo Verona? Verona, Verona, where for art thou? In unspectacular and unseemly 12th place, that’s where.
This weekend sees several entertaining matchups. Napoli, in second, head to the capital to take on third-place Lazio in what will be a high-octane duel between the table’s bridesmaid teams.
And then there’s Inter Milan versus Chievo. Fifth versus 12th. Black-blues versus Yellow-blues. The Big Grass Snake lumbering up against the insipid Flying Donkeys.
But don’t despair, all is not lost: whilst this hardly has the hallmarks of a classic, it does throw up several battles which have the ferocity tantamount to a Balotelli debut penalty kick.
To begin with, both of these teams enter the game in diabolical form. In Milan resides La Scala opera house and its domineering balconies, whilst Verona showcases Juliet’s much-decreed romance-inspired raised terrace. Recent results have left fans wanting to throw respective coaches off either.
Inter are without a win in their last four games. This has seen them fortuitously grab a draw at Roma, who then followed that up with a 2-1 drubbing in the first leg of their Coppa Italia semifinal some three days later.
Chievo can boast a marginally better form card, but only just. Having crashed out of the Coppa Italia to Reggina back in November, they have only the league to concentrate on. Which is a good thing considering they’re currently 12th with 28 points from 23 games.
Recent games have been turbulent. Two wins in their last five—one of which included a plucky smash-and-grab 1-0 victory over Lazio—had fans wondering if a table-climbing surge was imminent. This weekend’s 2-1 home defeat to Juventus served as a timely reality check.
On the battlefield, it will be tense. Chievo have only won thrice away from home but that's not to say Inter will run riot. The San Siro is no longer the fortress it once was as the 2010 Champions League winners have only won six of their 11 home games thus far.
A lot will be expected of Inter's quadruplet in attack. The Italian pair of Antonio Cassano and newly-acquired Tomasso Rocchi—who's yet to find the net in his four appearances so far—combine with the Argentinian duo of Rodrigo Palacio and Diego Milito as to form an intimidating set,
Whilst the four have scored 21 of Inter's 36 goals, it's also worth mentioning that all of them are the wrong side of 30. They are all clinical, yes, but they are not as unplayable as they once were.
During last weekend's plucky 2-1 defeat at the hands of Juventus, Chievo set up their shop with five at the back. If they are to keep Cassano and Palacio quiet—who both started up front during Inter's loss at Siena—expect them to do the same again here.
It will be in an interesting tussle between defence and attack. In Dario Dainelli, Marco Andreoli and Botjan Cesar, Chievo have three centre-halves all well-versed in stifling Serie A's most prolific attackers.
Deploying Mario Samprisi and Bojan Jokic as fullbacks-cum-wingbacks on either side of defence, these two will potentially be the busiest men on the field. Yuto Nagatamo and Fredy Guarin relish surging up the opposition wing—the latter in particular—to swing those looping balls in for the frontmen to nod home.
Despite sitting in 12th, away from relegation trouble but not in danger of qualifying for Europe, there have been several positives emanating from the Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi.
Perparim Hatemaj, at 26, is beginning to look like the player that was instrumental in Brescia's return to the top flight two seasons ago. His partner in midfield, the Ghanaian Isaac Cofie, was unfortunate not to receive a call-up to this year's African Cup of Nations. At 21, he has a lot of potential, as exemplified by his 13 appearances thus far.
The two of them, along with the more experienced Luca Rigoni, will look to cause Inter's latest signing Zdrako Kuzmanoic—shipped in on deadline day—a few woes.
The only department where Chievo have come unstuck—potentially being the cause of their mid-table ranking—is up front: they do not really have someone to instill fear into opposition defences.
The 23-year-old Alberto Paloschi could change that, if he can continue his fine form, but his young age means he needs support. As he's contributed seven goals in 11 appearances, the on-loan AC Milan striker needs Sergio Pellissier (four goals in 16) and Cyril Théréau (four goals in 22) to limit their profligacy.
Tune in this Sunday evening as Internazionale take on Chievo, in a match which, simply, has a home win plastered all over it.