Inter travelled to the Stadio Artemio Franchi on Saturday night to take on a Fiorentina side buoyed by having reached their first Coppa Italia Final since 2001. The Viola handily dispatched Udinese and were heavy pre-game favourites, given the tumultuous last few weeks the Milanese club have endured.
Walter Mazzarri started the match in fifth place, right behind Fiorentina but trailed by eight points, making a win vital if they were to keep alive their hopes of a Champions League berth. Yet Inter prevailed, holding on to win this match and over the following pages we’ll look at what this game taught us about both sides.
The Viola have some of the most creative midfielders in Europe with Borja Valero, Alberto Aquilani and David Pizarro all capable of making numerous chances. Giuseppe Rossi was capitalising on that superbly before his injury, netting 14 times in 18 league appearances.
With him out for an extended period of time, however, Vincenzo Montella needs one of his other attacking players to fill the void. Here he started Josip Ilicic and Joaquin, leaving both Alessandro Matri and Mario Gomez on the bench.
If Fiorentina are to overhaul third-place Napoli and seal Champions League football, one of those two men will have to find the goals to close the gap.
While the midfield and attack of Fiorentina draw admiring glances and plaudits alike, at the other end of the pitch they need to make some serious changes. Torn open for Rodrigo Palacio’s goal, the likes of Marvin Compper and Neto are way below the required standard.
The goalkeeper is particularly poor, conceding 24 goals already and making just 81 saves according to FoxSoccer’s statistics.
Juan Cuadrado got on the score sheet again on Saturday, just days after his goal fired Fiorentina past Udinese and into the Coppa Italia Final. The Colombian has found the net three times and contributed three assists this season.
The 25-year-old is co-owned with Udinese and it will be interesting to see where his future lies in the summer, with some of Europe’s biggest clubs circling. A good World Cup could see his value soar and his versatility would make him a great addition for most teams.
Before this game started, Inter had lost five consecutive away games between both the league and cup, winning just three times in total on their travels in 2013-14. That record stands in stark contrast to their performances at the Giuseppe Meazza where they have lost only one game: a 0-3 drubbing at the hands of Roma back in October.
Reasons for their poor displays outside of Milan are tough to identify, but Walter Mazzarri clearly has work to do to improve upon that record. It is currently holding them back and, with visits to Milan, Parma, Hellas and Roma still to come, it could ultimately decide their hopes of a European place next term.
Rodrigo Palacio took his tally to 11 Serie A goals with the opening strike in this game, meaning only five players have scored more than the Argentinean striker.
That Yuto Nagatomo is the club’s second leading scorer with just five goals highlights just how important he has been for the Nerazzurri this term. The 32-year-old also has five assists, a tally bettered at Inter by only Ricky Alvarez.