Sassuolo host Inter on Sunday night, as each side look to get their Serie A campaign started with three points.
Finishing fourth after a dramatic final day win over Lazio, Inter can once again call themselves a Champions League side. Sassuolo ended up in 11th, but rather remarkably have won seven of the last eight matches between these two clubs.
However, this is a new look Nerazzurri. Amongst others, the additions of young Argentine Lautaro Martinez and Dutch centre back Stefan de Vrij could help Inter wrestle the Scudetto away from Juventus.
Here are three key battles which could decide the outcome of the clash between Sassuolo and Inter.
1. Domenico Berardi vs Kwadwo Asamoah
Completing the double over Inter last season, one of Sassuolo’s main men was Domenico Berardi. Scoring the vital goal in a 2-1 victory, I Neroverdi’s diminutive Italian stunned a 66,000 strong crowd inside the Guiseppe Meazza.
However, this time round he will be up against a different opponent. Brought in on a free after his contract with rivals Juventus expired, Ghana international Kwadwo Asamoah is likely to accept the task of stopping Berardi.
Asamoah may start higher up the pitch, and this would mean a face to face clash in midfield as opposed to a defensive one. Either way, it should prove to be an intriguing battle.
2. Alfred Duncan vs Matias Vecino
Next up is a central midfield clash between two men who’ve met each other more than once before. Uruguayan Matias Vecino will look to outsmart Sassoulo’s physical battler Alfred Duncan with some slick passing play.
However, the Ghanaian should not be underestimated. His role in both wins last campaign was colossal, and he’s not a half bad creator either. Likely to be feeding balls into his team’s new false nine Kevin Prince Boateng, Duncan’s presence will be felt.
Vecino’s winning goal against Lazio in last year’s final game gained Inter a Champions League spot. Even though that finish was imperative to qualification for Europe’s grandest tournament, he only got two other strikes in Serie A all campaign. While his role is slightly deeper, Vecino will still want to improve that goal record.
3. Gian Marco Ferrari vs Mauro Icardi
Mauro Icardi is Inter’s shining light. Captain of I Nerazzurri, the Argentine scored 29 domestic league goals last season to share the Capocannoniere with Lazio’s Ciro Immobile. A hero on the terraces, Inter fans will look to him for guidance.
However, for all his goals, the forward failed to net against Sassuolo. Up against Gian Marco Ferrari, Icardi will look to take advantage of any potential communication lapses in the opposition’s defence.
On loan to Sampdoria over the previous 12 months, Ferrari is likely to feature in a new look central partnership with the recently signed Mauricio Lemos. The two may hope for fullback assistance when marking such a lethal finisher, as it’s likely Icardi will have a few chances to open his account this Sunday.