Inter Milan v Palermo, Serie A, October 29, 2009
For all the criticism thrown at Inter Milan this season, the Special One’s charges are all happy-clappy at the top of Serie A, holding a two point lead over surprise package Sampdoria, and four point advantage over Juventus before round 10 of the season kicks into gear.
If this is what it’s like when Inter are playing badly, what can we expect when they hit form?
Inter, riding high off the back of three successive league victories, will however face a difficult test against Walter Zenga’s Palermo. The Sicilians, lying in joint fourth spot alongside AC Milan and Fiorentina, can match the Nerazzurri’s three-from-three record in the league having turned over Juve, Livorno and Udinese in their most recent outings. And moreover, Palermo have an excellent recent record at the San Siro, typified in their match last season when the Rosanero came back from 2-down to draw 2-2.
Despite having a must-win Champions League fixture against Dynamo Kiev next week, Jose Mourinho is not in a position to be resting his players at this stage of the season. Instead, the Portuguese coach has to contend with a couple of selection problems, none bigger than the absence of his star player this season – Wesley Sneijder.
Elsewehere, Esteban Cambiasso, who is himself only now returning from injury, will likely be kept out as a precaution, with Patrick Vieira taking his place in midfield and Thiago Motta making his return in the middle of the pitch. Diego Milito (3/1 to score last) will probably start from the bench having also been sidelined in recent weeks.
Inter will nevertheless field an extremely talented starting XI.
Only Samp have managed to prevent Inter from finding the net in their nine league matches this campaign, and in Samuel Eto’o (5/1 to score a brace), who is finally returning to full fitness, they have one of the most potent strikers in world football. Fire-cracker Mario Balotelli (10/11 to score) should partner Eto’o up-top, while slightly further back Dejan Stankovic (11/2 to score first) – four goals in his last five matches – is ready to make his 300th appearance in Serie A against Palermo in style.
Zenga also has his fair share of problems to deal with as Palmero will be without defender Federico Balzaretti and striker Levan Mchedlidze for their trip up north. Further, keeper Rubinho will also be kept out as a precaution, captain Fabio Liverani is sidelined with a long-term injury, and Cesare Bovo and Moris Carrozzieri are suspended.
Nevertheless, Palermo can still feel confident that their team can cause Inter serious problems. Up-front, evergreen striker Fabrizio Miccoli (9/1 to score first) has begun the new campaign in sparkling form, netting three goals in nine games so far. Uruguayan sidekick Edison Cavani (10/3 to score) has also been amongst the goals, while Croatian forward Igor Budan (7/2 to score) offers the Southerns yet more attacking options.
Furtehr back, Brazilian midfielder Fabio Simplicio and Aussie workhorse Marco Bresciano help fill out the midfield, while two of world football’s most underrated centre-backs – Romanian international Dorin Goian (7/1 to score) and his Danish counterpart Simon Kjaer (8/1 to score) – help form a rock-solid backline.
101gg predicts: Inter Milan 2 – Palermo 1 (7/1)
Full match odds here.