When Internazionale of Milan travels to Olympic Stadium in Rome on Friday, it will be doing so in slightly better shape than it has been recently.
Midfielder Thiago Motta might be able to play his first full match of the season. He is slated to start. He has played just 50 minutes in two matches thus far, as injuries have kept him sidelined.
Esteban Cambiasso and Dejan Stankovic will probably join him as starting midfielders.
But Inter will still be without a jaw-dropping lineup of stars. Out is top goalie Julio Cesar, as well as defenders Maicon, Walter Samuel and Christian Chivu and midfielders McDonald Mariga, Amantino Mancini and Obi and Philippe Coutinho. Up front, Inter is without Samuel Eto’o, Diego Milito and David Suazo.
Inter’s starting lineup is so banged up that many of its primavera players (under-19 squad) are expected to make up much of the bench.
Young Italians Felice Natalino, Cristiano Biragi and Davide Santon, as well as Nigerian Obiora Nwankwo and Romanian Denis Alibec could all feature on the bench.
Inter, which enters the match in fifth place in Serie A with 23 points after 14 match days, is expected to feature former Lazio player Goran Pandev up front. It should be an intense battle given that Pandev left Lazio on bad terms, as he won the right to become a free agent after being frozen out of the squad over contract negotiations.
Lazio, second in Serie A with 27 points, finds itself looking well and expects to have all of its regulars available.
It is interesting that Lazio is now playing a formation Inter had success with under Jose Mourinho.
Coach Edy Reja has opted to go with a 4-2-3-1 with veterans Cristian Ledesma and Cristiano Brocchi forming a solid “2,” followed by Mauro Zarate, Hernanes and Stefano Mauri in the ”3” role and Sergio Floccari up front as the ‘true’ center forward.
Inter skipper Rafael Benitez has experimented with different formations, but has done so only because of the vast number of players who have missed action for one reason or another.
Benitez is expected to go with a Christmas tree formation of 4-3-2-1.
Jonathan Biabiany and Wesley Sneijder as expected to play the “2” role behind Pandev in the formation.
This will be Inter’s last Serie A game until January. The club will play next week against Werder Bremen in the UEFA Champions League having already qualified for the knockout stage.
It will then travel to Dubai in two weeks for the FIFA Club World Cup. Certainly many of its stars that are out are targeting a return for the tournament.
Expect a draw out of the match with Lazio.