Inter host Fiorentina at the San Siro on the opening weekend of the 2017/18 season – an opening fixture almost written in the stars, given the number of tasty sub-plots involved.
Fiorentina have hired ex-Inter manager Stefano Pioli following his dismissal in May, while the Nerazzurri snapped up Viola midfielders Borja Valero and Matías Vecino.
With an average of 4.1 goals scored between the teams across the last ten meetings, including a nine-goal thriller the last time the sides met, this tends to be a very exciting match. While Fiorentina have been the dominant side in this fixture, Inter will be confident with the prospect of a fresh season ahead.
Inter have been preparing intensely for the new season, playing eight pre-season friendlies. Only dropping (theoretical) points on two occasions, Inter have claimed some impressive scalps in the form of wins over Chelsea and Bayern Munich.
The side has looked increasingly compact in defence and midfield, armed with new signings in both areas. With two new faces in the defence, centre-back Martin Skriniar and Brazilian full-back Dalbert, along with the aforementioned Matías Vecino acquired from the Viola; Inter are looking a lot stronger heading into the 2017/18 season.
Meanwhile, Fiorentina have had a mixed bag in pre-season, with three wins contrasting the side’s two losses to Sporting CP and Wolfsburg. New boss Pioli is bringing an almost Inter-style 4-2-3-1 to Fiorentina and will look to stay solid against his former club.
With the club severely weakened by first team departures, the gap in the quality should be evident given the shoe-string budget that Pioli is operating on. With Federico Bernardeschi, Gonzalo Rodríguez, and Borja Valero all exiting the club this summer, it will be a new look side come kick off on Sunday.
Spalletti will have a full strength squad at his disposal, which will make picking the team difficult. With so many names contesting a midfield spot, this will be the hardest position to predict. The manager will deploy a 4-2-3-1, with the holding two likely to be Matías Vecino and Roberto Gagliardini.
Meanwhile, Fiorentina will be without Riccardo Saponara to injury and Federico Chiesa due to suspension, which weakens their attacking options. Matching up formation wise, Pioli will aim to neutralise the threat of Inter, playing a compact system. Jordan Veretout and Milan Badelj will be key to executing this plan, as Fiorentina aim to defend resolutely.
Mauro Icardi vs Vitor Hugo and Davide Astori
The Fiorentina centre-back pairing will be tasked with stopping the ever-prolific Argentinian striker. Icardi scored 24 league goals for the Nerazzurri last season, and will be looking to hit the ground running this Sunday.
Dominant in the air against most opponents and also a lethal poacher, Icardi will be supplied with crosses from both wings. Astori and Hugo will be tasked with stopping him receiving any service, both standing at 6’1, they will look to assert their physical presence to bully the Inter captain out of the game.
Recent results would suggest that Fiorentina are the favourites for this clash, winning five of the last six league meetings. However, they have been severely weakened by summer departures, while failing to replace outgoings with the same quality.
Inter are armed with new owners and a new manager and have invested well in proven Serie A players, such as Martin Skriniar, Borja Valero and Matías Vecino. With Inter having the home advantage, it’s hard to look past a win for the hosts – not that it won’t be a cagey, hard-contested affair.
Prediction: Inter 2-1 Fiorentina