With the annual Inter wintercollapse in full swing – their current run totals nine games without a victory – the proposition of 17th placed Crotone visiting the San Siro on Saturday should offer some hope of curtailing their torrid form.
However, Inter’s fans will still be wary of the Calabrian side, considering the acrimonious draw with 18th placed SPAL last weekend.
Indeed, Crotone’s recent record of seven points from their last six games in the league is significantly better than the Nerazzurri’s return in the same period, a miserly four.
With Crotone promoted to Serie A for the first time in their history in the 2016/17 season, the pair have only squared off against each other three times.
Undoubtedly the standout fixture within these three fixtures was Crotone’s infamous 2-1 victory over the Milan side at the back end of last season, perhaps second only to the 3-1 defeat of Lazio on the last day of the season – which kept them up – in terms of the club’s most cherished wins.
In a must win game for the Calabrians then fleeting chances of survival, Crotone produced a masterful display at the Ezio Scida stadium to topple Stefano Piolo’s side.
I Rossoblu got off to a flying start, with Diego Falcinelli scoring both goals in quick succession. The first, on the 18th minute, was a cooly slotted penalty that proved to powerful for Handanovic, who went the right way.
The second, only four minutes later, was a sumptuous dink over the Slovakian keeper, following an incisive counter attack.
Inter did manage to get one goal back, with D’Ambrosio heading in from a corner in the 65th minute, but it was to no avail, as the Crotone players held out for the victory, and a deserved place in the club’s history books.
Mauro Icardi vs Alex Cordaz
Inter’s tometic striker, and club captain, has been on a veritable goaldrought in recent times, considering the lofty standards he has consistently set himself over the last few seasons.
With one score in his last five appearances in Serie A, the Argentinian will be hoping to add to the 18 he’s already collected in the league, although he’ll face stiff opposition in the form of Crotone keeper, and captain, Alex Cordaz.
The 35 year old is an equally talismanic figure at his club, and if he was to accrue his fifth clean sheet of the season at San Siro, it would surely be one of his most impressive.
Rafinha vs Rolando Mandragora
With new loanee signing Rafinha recently arriving from Barcelona, the Brazilian will be looking to make his home debut for the club, after coming on in the 90th minute in last weekend’s draw with SPAL.
Inter will be hoping the 24-year-old can come in and hit the ground running, with increased goals and productivity from the midfield the reason he has been brought in.
Attempting to check Rafinha’s influence on proceedings will be Crotone’s defensive midfielder Rolando Mandragora. The coveted 20 year old, who is on loan from Juventus, will have to impose himself well if he is to stop the Brazilian’s considerable threat.
Inter currently have a full strength side, with only Marcelo Brozovic teetering on the edge of possible suspension, with one more yellow card needed to sideline the Croatian.
Crotone are also tantalisingly close to an injury free squad, with centre-forward Marco Tumminello their only absentee, after rupturing his cruciate ligament back in September. He is expected to return in March.
Potential Inter Starting Lineup: Handanovic;D’Ambrosio, Miranda, Skriniar, Cancelo; Rafinha, Valero, Vecino; Perisic, Icardi, Candreva
Potential Crotone Starting Lineup:
Cordaz; Martella, Capuano, Ceccherini, Sampirisi; Barberis, Mandragora, Benali; Ricci, Budimir, Stoian
While it’s fair to say Inter have struggled to score goals this season, with centre-back Milan Skriniar their third highest scorer with three, that’s nothing compared with Crotone’s troubles in finding the net.
The Calabrians have registered just 17 goals in 22 games, with striker Budimir their top scorer with a meagre five. This disparity, as well as the sheer necessity for an Inter victory, should result in all three points going the way of the Nerazzurri.
Prediction: Inter 2-0 Crotone