Ahead of Southampton's trip to the San Siro in the UEFA Europa League, we got the lowdown on Inter from MondoFutbol.com journalist Carlo Pizzigoni.
How has Inter’s season been so far?
This summer, Inter replaced coach Roberto Mancini with Frank de Boer. The former Ajax manager has only been working with his players since mid-August and it has influenced the beginning of the Nerazzurri's season.
The Dutch coach needs time to build a new team identity. In these first matches, Inter's performances have been rather fluctuating, alternating between some good matches and bad ones. At “San Siro”, the Nerazzurri achieved a great victory against Juventus, their fiercest rivals in Italy, in an amazing match where everything went well for Inter. However, De Boer's side have struggled against small teams and also in home matches. At “Stadio Giuseppe Meazza”, the Nerazzurri indeed won a match against Juventus, but drew one game and lost two. Now Inter are in 11th place, a position that doesn't reflect the real value of their players.
How has the team been performing in the Europa League?
Until now, the Europa League campaign has been even more difficult than Serie A, with two losses in two matches and a pair of performances not good enough, both against Israeli side Hapoel Be'er Sheva, in Milan, and against Sparta Prague, in Czech Republic.
These results are probably also influenced by Frank de Boer's squad rotation. In the Europa League, the Dutch manager has deployed different players. However, as we've already said, the fact that the Nerazzurri have not yet developed a clear team identity and well-defined style of playing, due to de Boer's late start, has influenced so much of their Europa League campaign.
It's a short competition where you can't fail in a match. Now Inter can't afford to miss any chance.
INTER MUST WIN AGAINST SOUTHAMPTON.Carlo pizzigoni
How is the absence of some of the team's important players affecting them in the Europa League?
For sure, the absence of some players is a burden for Inter. First of all, that of Portuguese talent João Mário, who played a stunning European championship. In the final against France, without injured Cristiano Ronaldo, the Porto-born midfielder showed his high quality. Having arrived in Milan, he has settled in immediately in Serie A, which is normally a rather difficult league for newcomers. He's already become a fan idol, and many supporters wear his “number six” shirt. On San Siro stage, the Portuguese player seems to feel at home and has shown moves that have excited football lovers.
How strong do you expect Inter’s team to be against Southampton?
Inter must win against Southampton, after two losses in the first two matches. It won't be an easy game. In addition to being in last position in their group, the Nerazzurri are experiencing a quite difficult moment, also due to the controversy related to Mauro Icardi. The team must enthral its fans, and the only way to do that is to play a generous game, but attention and concentration should be very high. Inter-Southampton could be a key match in Inter's season.
Who do you think will be the key players for Inter on Thursday?
The footballers with the most experience – those who have played high-level matches more often – must appear immediately sure, in order to be a point of reference for their teammates. I'm referring especially to their defensive leader and former Brazilian national team captain João Miranda, the talented midfielder Éver Banega, who captured the last two Europa League titles with Sevilla FC, and Gary Medel, two-time South American champion with Chile, who was praised by former national coach Jorge Sampaoli in a recent interview in Spanish monthly magazine “Panenka”.
What sort of a match do you expect between Inter and Southampton?
Southampton are in good form, they've gained four points in the first two matches. Inter must win and they will have to lead the game, if possibly not at high intensity. Maybe the Nerazzurri need a change of formation, or rather a different interpretation of their formation – until now a “spurious” 4-3-3, with an agile midfield – but, in a decisive match, it's not the time to try something new. A “syncopated” style of play could be useful for Inter Milan. They should be able to wait without uncovering too much. In these kind of games, calmness and patience are among the most valuable virtues.