Saturday’s Serie A action peaks in the afternoon slot as basement boys Cremonese take on top-four hopefuls Inter at the Stadio Giovanni Zini. The fixture in Cremona has all the makings of a lopsided contest, with both sides desperately seeking three points, albeit for different reasons.
Cremonese failed to hold onto a 1-0 second-half lead at Bologna on Monday, drawing 1-1 at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara on Davide Ballardini’s league debut. The experienced manager replaced Massimiliano Alvini in the dugout earlier in January and dispatched Napoli from Coppa Italia on his touchline bow.
However, Ballardini’s effort to keep Cremonese in the top flight is more of a Herculean task as his men enter the second half of the 2022/23 Serie A season as the only side yet to win a league match (D8, L11). Given their embarrassing top-flight start, La Cremo could be grateful for lagging ‘just’ nine points behind safety.
In stark contrast to their hosts’ fight for survival, visiting Inter are embroiled in a keenly-contested top-four battle after Monday’s unfathomable 1-0 home loss to Empoli rendered their title hopes dead in the water. Milan Skriniar’s first-half expulsion played to Gli Azzurri’s advantage, but fans have pointed fingers elsewhere.
Less than five days since thumping fierce rivals Milan in the Supercoppa Italiana showpiece in Saudi Arabia, head coach Simone Inzaghi lost what many saw as a routine task against perennial bottom-half strugglers. Once again, the Italian manager refused to adjust his tactics, with fatigue naturally catching up with the Inter players following a long trip to the Middle East.
Amends for an incomprehensible defeat to Empoli could prove a powerful motive as Inter hope to get back to winning ways and solidify their delicate position in the top-four race.
The abovementioned draw against Bologna may have snapped Cremonese’s dreadful run of four consecutive Serie A defeats, yet it’s hardly offered any consolation to their fans. Another failed attempt to clutch three points would see La Cremo become the first side since Ancona in 2003/04 to go winless in the first 20 matches of a Serie A season.
It takes no rocket science to conclude Ancona failed to preserve their top-flight status that year. Unless Ballardini masterminds a turnaround in the next few games, Cremonese could follow in Ancona’s footsteps and join Serie B immediately after earning top-flight promotion. However, their woeful all-time Serie A record against Inter (W1, D2, L12) cannot inspire much confidence in the home camp.
Player to Watch: Cyriel Dessers
Cyriel Dessers missed out on Cremonese’s trip to Bologna earlier this week but is expected to return to the fold in time to face Inter. The former Genk striker has contributed to three of his side’s four home league goals this season, scoring twice and delivering one assist.
Before a shocking loss to Empoli, Inter had been unbeaten in five previous Serie A outings (W4, D1), while that was their first scoring blank since a 2-0 defeat at Juventus in November. Playing away from home won’t necessarily work in the visitors’ favor, especially considering they’ve blown hot and cold on their last three league travels (W1, D1, L1).
However, Inter can rely on their quick-fire starts to set the tone for a much-needed win. Inzaghi’s men have tallied a league-high 13 goals inside the opening 30 minutes of play in Serie A this season, highlighting the potential for an action-packed first half. Adding to this sentiment, their hosts have conceded 13 times in that same timeframe.
Player to Watch: Lautaro Martinez
In-form Lautaro Martinez has been ruthless against the so-called lesser teams, racking up a staggering nine goals and two assists in his last nine Serie A appearances against newly-promoted sides. With Edin Dzeko performing in patches and Romelu Lukaku nowhere to be seen, the Argentine may have to step up to the plate again.
Cremonese will be without long-term absentees Ionut Radu and Chirstian Acella, but Ballardini’s men have at least avoided further injury setbacks ahead of this clash.
As for Inter, in addition to suspended Skriniar, Inzaghi cannot call upon the services of Samir Handanovic and Marcelo Brozovic, with both players still nursing their injuries in the treatment room. On top of that, Nicolo Barella is not in contention after accumulating yellow cards.
Cremonese vs Inter Potential Lineups
Cremonese (3-5-2): Marco Carnesecchi; Matteo Bianchetti, Vlad Chiriches, Alex Ferrari; Leonardo Sernicola, Marco Benassi, Michele Castagnetti, Soualiho Meite, Emanuele Valeri; David Okereke, Cyriel Dessers.
Inter (3-5-2): Andre Onana; Stefan de Vrij, Francesco Acerbi, Alessandro Bastoni; Matteo Darmian, Roberto Gagliardini, Hakan Calhanoglu, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Federico Dimarco; Lautaro Martinez, Edin Dzeko.
Cremonese vs Inter Prediction
Inter cannot afford another slip-up against sub-par opposition if they’re to stay in the top four. With fifth-placed Roma level on points with the Nerazzurri, there’s a genuine risk of slipping outside Champions League placings at the end of this round.
Therefore, we back Inter to bounce back from Monday’s shock and add more misery to Cremonese’s nightmarish season. The hosts should look for points elsewhere.
Prediction: Inter Win
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