When Inter take to the field on Sunday against Palermo, they will be hoping for a continuation of the steady progress being made over the course of the past two to three games.
Inter’s opponents in this game cannot be taken lightly, as the Stadio Renzo Barbera has been somewhat of a fortress for Palermo.
(Having gone 29 games undefeated on their home turf.)
Inter will be looking for their first away win of the season after the 0-0 and 2-2 draws away to Bologna and Twente, respectively.
The midweek game saw a continuation of the excellent form displayed by Samuel Eto’o thus far this season. Given Diego Milito’s rather uncharacteristic start to the campaign, Inter might be well served having two strikers upfront instead of leaving ‘Il Principe’ all on his own where he looks rather lost at the moment.
Goran Pandev is set to miss the game following the injury he picked up in Enschede. Thiago Motta is also a doubt for Sunday’s trip having still not completely recovered from his knee surgery.
Another worry for the Champions is the fitness of playmaker Wesley Sneijder. The Inter back-room staff will be doing their best to get him fit in time for the trip to Sicily.
With Chivu out, one hopes to see young Santon given a run out in the first team as that will allow Zanetti to anchor the midfield along with Cambiasso. While Zanetti is still a fantastic defender no doubt, his lack of pace can be found wanting, especially when faced with an attack having swift wingers.
Benitez is looking to get the team play his own style of football which was evident for long periods of the midweek game. This season’s Inter seem more patient with the ball and a good measure of how much the team has progressed under Benitez’s coaching will become evident as he will be facing a team known for playing a very attractive brand of football over the years.
Given all the changes, one thing that must continue from last season is the defensive strength. Inter conceded against Udinese and Twente and looked more vulnerable at the back than they did towards the end of last season.
While Walter Samuel has been consistent, Lucio has had lapses in concentration. Udinese’s goal from last weekend did seem to come as a result of Floro Flores getting free of the Brazil captain.
Among the youngsters, Coutinho had the most impressive showing in his Champions League debut. Mariga had a decent performance but his shooting skills leave a lot to be desired.
On more than one occasion he failed to hit the target and with Motta set to return within the next few weeks, he will have to work hard at improving his shooting ability if he is to continue his current run in the first team.
On a side note, Mariga’s headbutt at the end of the Twente game did seem quite unnecessary and reckless. And in this day and age of the ubiquitous television camera, one must question his wisdom.
Palermo are coming of a 3-2 loss in Prague and coach Delio Rossi will be looking for an instant response from his players. Coincidentally, they lost their last Serie A fixture away to newly promoted Brescia by the same scoreline.
Inter can expect the opposition to look to go on the attack right from the start and given the shaky defenses of both teams, this game has the potential to have plenty of goals in it.
Last season’s corresponding fixture ended up 1-1 with Milito and Cavani scoring the goals for Inter and Palermo, respectively. The Rosanero players and fans will be up for this one and Inter can expect a hostile reception particularly if the home side hits their stride early on.
This is a very important game for both sides and will go a long way in kick starting either team’s campaign. Benitez and Co. must only think about getting three points from this game even if they don’t manage to play the sexiest brand of football at this early stage of the season.