Inter travel to Parma on Saturday, the first of four matches that will decide whether Walter Mazzarri’s side is playing European football next season.
The Nerazzurri lead their opponents by two points in the Serie A table heading into this weekend’s encounter, making the game a true six pointer. If the club wins, it gives them some breathing room ahead of a brutal end of season fixture list. A defeat makes it difficult to see how the club will be able to get back into the Europa League race.
Inter’s next four games are Parma (away), Napoli (home), Milan (A) and Lazio (H). Parma on the other hand has Inter (H), Cagliari (A), Sampdoria (H), Torino (A). Not exactly a fearsome foursome of opponents. That is why it is some important that Mazzarri's side win at the Stadio Ennio Tardini. A draw isn't enough as it keeps Parma within two points of Inter.
Inter head into the game on the back of their biggest win since September, with last weeks 4-0 win at Sampdoria, their first win in five games.
One good sign for the club's fans is the positive form away from home recently, with three wins and two draws in their last five trips away from the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza. Only Roma and Juventus have picked up more points that Inter in their last six games away from home.
Parma on the other hand are unbeaten in their last ten home games and have beaten Milan and Napoli in the intimidating atmosphere of their home support this season.
Team News: Inter
Juan Jesus and Andrea Ranocchia are both out, which will mean that Hugo Campagnaro will start in defence alongside Walter Samuel and Rolando
Inter (probable): Handanovic; Campagnaro, Samuel, Rolando; D’Ambrosio, Hernanes, Cambiasso, Nagatomo; Kovacic, Palacio; Icardi Team News: Parma
Both Antonio Cassano and Marco Parolo missed the derby last weekend against Bologna, but Donadoni is expected to be available as at least a substitute. time.
Parma (probable): Mirante; Cassani, Lucarelli, Paletta, Molinaro; Acquah, Marchionni, Parolo; Biabiany, Amauri, Schelotto
Inter will win if: Mazzarri get the midfield right
After calling for Mazzarri to play Mateo Kovacic for weeks, the Inter boss finally succumbed to the wishes of the Inter fans last week and started the young midfielder against Sampdoria last week. Kovacic responded with a terrific performance that earned him plaudits from the Inter boss after the match.
As mentioned above, I expect the club to start Hernanes, Cambiasso and Kovacic in midfield. My only caveat to that, is that at his core, Mazzarri is a defensive coach, and in a game that Inter cannot afford to lose, will he really go with two attacking midfielders in Hernanes and Kovacic with both Palacio and Icardi ahead of them? Or will he bring in a more defensive player (Zdravko Kuzmanovic?) in an attempt to stop Parma first?
I hope not, but this is a game that Mazzarri cannot afford to lose if he wants to manage Inter next season and I will not be surprised to see him look to stop Parma first with the idea of stealing a goal late to win the game.
If Inter are to grab all three points they will need another inspired performance by Rodrigo Palacio. Palacio was outstanding against Sampdoria last week, and his nine career goals against Parma makes them Palacio’s favourite opponents. Hopefully Palacio will break into double digits against Parma this weekend. Prediction:
As I mentioned, with the run of games that Inter have between now and the end of the season, nothing less than three points on Saturday will do. The problem is that the Stadio Ennio Tardini has not traditionally been a happy destination for Inter fans, with the Nerazzurri losing on their last three trips there.
I am not confident that Inter are playing well enough at the moment to go to Parma and get the necessary three points. It took some world class goalkeeping from Samir Handanovic last weekend to ensure that Inter took all three points at Sampdoria. Can the big Slovenian repeat last week’s heroics and lead Inter to victory?
While I hope I am wrong, I cannot see the Nerazzurri leaving Parma with all three points, and this might be the result that ultimately leads to the club searching for a new coach at the end of the season.
Score: Parma 2 Inter 1.