Stadio Giuseppe Meazza is the venue as top-four hopefuls Inter and perennial bottom-half strugglers Empoli go head-to-head in Monday’s Serie A fixture. Nothing but three points will do for the home side if they’re to strengthen their bid to secure Champions League football.
Inter swept arch-rivals Milan aside with an overwhelming 3-0 victory in the Supercoppa Italiana showpiece on Wednesday. Goals from Federico Dimarco, Edin Dzeko, and Lautaro Martinez helped the Nerazzurri defend the Super Cup crown for the first time since 2006. But there’s no time for wild celebrations.
Back to Serie A, where they’ve made up for a sluggish start with an eye-catching ten-match form (W8, D1, L1), Simone Inzaghi’s men hold a fragile three-point lead on fifth-placed Roma. There’s a feeling that Inter can hope to ensure a top-four finish at best, having started this round a whopping ten points adrift of pacesetters Napoli.
Luciano Spalletti’s men have briefly extended the gap to 13, courtesy of a comfortable 2-0 Campania derby win at Salernitana on Saturday. And while Inter still discreetly hope to whittle down the distance on Napoli, Empoli are gunning for a first Serie A top-half finish since 2015/16 amid a four-game unbeaten league run (W2, D2).
Paolo Zanetti’s men sit 12th in the Serie A standings, with seventh-placed Udinese only six points ahead, meaning a first European finish since 2007/08 is also on the cards. Empoli dispatched relegation-threatened Sampdoria 1-0 at home last weekend and could win back-to-back top-flight outings for the first time since December 2021.
Except for a 2-1 defeat to Roma in early October, Inter have won their remaining eight Serie A home fixtures this season, including the last five in a row. But their recent home wins have lacked conviction, with the two most recent yielding a narrow 1-0 scoreline, including the beating of Hellas Verona on the eve of the Super Cup event.
Inzaghi wouldn’t mind another hard-earned victory, but his side’s imperious run of nine consecutive Serie A wins over Empoli by an aggregate score of 20-7 suggests this could be a comprehensive triumph. Indeed, Inter have won 93% of their Serie A home encounters against Gli Azzurri (W13, L1), underlining their status as pre-match favorites.
Player to Watch: Lautaro Martinez
Martinez has scored in four consecutive appearances for Inter, including a winning goal against Verona last weekend. With Napoli’s Victor Osimhen boasting 13 Serie A strikes, the Argentine forward is only four goals off the Capocannoniere race.
Empoli have laid the foundation for bettering last season’s 14th-placed finish, though it has had nothing to do with their away showings. Zanetti’s men have picked up just one win on their nine Serie A travels this season (D5, L3) and are winless on the last five on the trot (D3, L2).
Facing Inter in January could play to Empoli’s advantage, as they’ve gone unbeaten in three of their last five Serie A H2Hs held in the opening month of the year (W1, D2). Either way, Gli Azzurri are accustomed to producing plenty of early action, with three of their last four away league games featuring the opener within ten minutes of play.
Player to Watch: Tommaso Baldanzi
Teenage prodigy Tommaso Baldanzi has soaked up the limelight as Empoli’s primary source of goals this season. The 19-year-old has tallied a club-high three Serie A goals so far, most recently scoring in a 1-1 draw at Udinese on January 4.
Captain Samir Handanovic and an midfield stalwart Marcelo Brozovic are still in the treatment room, but Inter have recently welcomed injury-prone striker Romelu Lukaku back to full training. However, the Belgian is unlikely to start.
As for Empoli, Razvan Marin serves a yellow-card suspension, with Mattia Destro, Alberto Grassi, and Lorenzo Tonelli facing a race against time to make the bench at least.
Inter vs Empoli Potential Lineups
Inter (3-5-2): Andre Onana; Milan Skriniar, Francesco Acerbi, Alessandro Bastoni; Denzel Dumfries, Nicolo Barella, Hakan Calhanoglu, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Federico Dimarco; Lautaro Martinez, Edin Dzeko.
Empoli (4-3-1-2): Guglielmo Vicario; Tyronne Ebuehi, Koni De Winter, Sebastiano Luperto, Fabiano Parisi; Fazzini, Filippo Bandinelli, Akpa Akpro; Tommaso Baldanzi; Francesco Caputo, Martin Satriano.
Inter vs Empoli Prediction
This showdown has a ‘one-sided affair’ written all over it as we back Inter to stroll to another routine home triumph.
Prediction: Inter Win
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