Europa League: How Can Internazionale Turn It Around vs. Tottenham?
Tottenham head to the San Siro in possession of a very comfortable three-goal cushion in the Europa League Round of 16, while Internazionale must figure out how to overturn the deficit.
Andrea Stramaccioni's troops were, for the large part, destroyed at White Hart Lane but at 3-0 Rodrigo Palacio had a golden chance to score. That save from Brad Friedel kept this game in Spurs' favour, and now the Nerazzurri need a 3-0 scoreline themselves to even take the tie to extra time and penalties.
What on earth can Inter do to progress?
The good news, as far as the home side are concerned, is that Gareth Bale won't be taking to the field.
His dive, and subsequent yellow card, will see him miss the tie much to the relief of Inter fans who vividly remember the Welshman skinning Javier Zanetti and Maicon with regularity in 2010.
So how Bale-dependent have Spurs become? We're about to find out, and Andre Villas-Boas will need to change his system, and chances are it'll be a defensive shuffle he makes in an attempt to protect his lead.
Stramaccioni has abandoned the three-man defence due to Walter Samuel's injury and will press on with the four-man version and simply work to make it better.
Samuel won't make it back in time, so the onus will be on Andrea Ranocchia to marshal the line, but how the Nerazzurri line up from there is anyone's guess.
They've used no less than five different formations in the UEFA Europa League so far, and for them to stand a chance Rodrigo Palacio has to start.
The Argentine has been Inter's best player this season and remains their chief goal threat in the absence of Diego Milito.
Stramaccioni needs to score three, so he has to game-plan in an offensive manner and not worry about the threat Spurs pose. This is do-or-die, and Bale's absence just makes the manager's all-out-attack methodology even more explicable.
We saw Spurs stutter a little without Aaron Lennon at Anfield on Sunday, and the English winger is a doubt ahead of the game in Italy—this only enhances Inter's chances, as AVB is unlikely to risk his other prized asset.
The speed Lennon and Bale possess is frightening, but without them Spurs will be much slower and far more indecisive in attack.
You can expect Jermain Defoe to lead the line, Lewis Holtby to start and Mousa Dembele to assume a position slightly deeper on the right. Gylfi Sigurdsson has been providing a nice anchoring option on the left and stablising that side, but a lack of pace on both wings will play into Inter's hands.
Can Inter do it?
Inter will need to retain a three-man midfield, and it might be sensible to replicate what Arsenal did in the first 20 minutes of the North London derby.
Leaving one midfielder (Mikel Arteta) deep, both Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey pushed high and hemmed Dembele and Scott Parker in their half, just ahead of the defensive line. It isolated the playmaker (Bale) and allowed the Gunners to enjoy a lot of the play.
Inter have all the tools they need to play a similar 4-3-3 shape, and pushing Spurs' already deep-set team even further back will be something Stramaccioni wants to achieve.
Fredy Guarin, now fully fit, is perfect for the industrious advanced role and will look to win the ball high up and use Palacio's pace in the channels.
Should the Nerazzurri start on the front foot and set the tone of the game, Spurs will struggle to get the same offensive mechanics going we've seen so often this season given the absentees. Stramaccioni will go for it, and this promises to be an entertaining matchup.
If Inter score early, anything could happen.
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