Inter will be hoping to bounce back from the heartbreak of being knocked out of the Coppa Italia quarter-finals against Lazio via a penalty shoot-out, when they take on Bologna on Sunday.
The Nerazzurri find themselves third in Serie A ahead of the weekend clash, and just five points ahead of San Siro rivals Milan in fourth. With Luciano Spalletti’s men seemingly drifting away from the breakaway duo of Juventus and Napoli, keeping Milan at arm’s length may become the priority until the end of the season.
So, below is a look at the best potential line-up Spalletti could put out for Sunday’s Serie A clash.
3. Goalkeeper & Defenders
Samir Handanovic (GK) – One of the first names on the Inter teamsheet, Handanovic is into his seventh season at the San Siro. The Slovenian was in inspired form against Lazio in the Coppa Italia, and single-handily kept the Nerazzurri in the game for the 120 minutes. It will take some doing for Bologna’s forwards to breach Handanovic’s goal on Sunday.
Danilo D’Ambrosio (RWB) – Favoured over Sime Vrsaljko after the Croatian’s injury struggles, D’Ambrosio should have greater licence to go forward at the weekend as part of Spalletti’s likely decision to play with a back three. The Italian has scored once and provided two assists in Serie A this season, and will look to provide an attacking outlet once more.
Stefan de Vrij (CB) – A composed ball-playing centre-half, De Vrij has been a reliable performer for Inter since his free transfer from rivals Lazio last summer. The Dutchman has been integral to the Nerazzurri’s defensive solidity this season, with the side having conceded just 15 goals in their 21 league games; the second-best defence in Serie A.
Milan Skriniar (CB) – Quickly becoming one of the best centre-backs in Europe, Skriniar has shown an excellent reading of the game at the heart of Inter’s backline. Also admirably coping at right-back when needed, the 23-year-old looks destined for the very top.
Miranda (CB) – The veteran has been in and out of the side this campaign, but even at 34 has delivered consistent performances for Spalletti’s side. The former Atletico Madrid star is in his fourth campaign with Inter and remains an influential figure in the dressing room.
Dalbert (LWB) – With Spalletti opting for a formation with wing backs, Dalbert has become one of the main beneficiaries from his manager’s tactical tweaks. The Brazilian is explosive going forward but is suspect defensively, and with an additional centre half now there to protect, expect the 25-year-old to bomb forward regularly.
Matias Vecino (CM) – One of the stars of Uruguay’s impressive run at the World Cup last year, Vecino has really kicked on in Serie A this campaign. A regular in the side with 16 league appearances to his name, the 27-year-old offers some much needed defensive protection in midfield and has been a standout performer for the Nerazzurri.
Marcelo Brozovic (CM) – Often overshadowed by his more illustrious Croatian teammates Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, Inter’s Brozovic more than holds his own. The playmaker sets the tempo in the middle of the park for the Italian side, and has added a dynamism to his game this year with two goals and an assist from central midfield.
Radja Nainggolan (CM) – A fiery and combustible character both on the pitch and off it, there can be no doubting Nainggolan’s footballing ability. The Belgian is a never-ending source of energy and can often come up with the spectacular and unexpected, and against Bologna such creativity may well be necessary to break them down.
Lautaro Martinez (ST) – Despite struggling for goals on a consistent basis for Inter, Martinez has shown glimpses of real promise since his move from Argentine side Racing Club last summer. The 21-year-old missed a crucial penalty in the penalty shoot-out defeat to Lazio, and will hope to make amends for his side’s eventual Coppa Italia exit with a fine performance on Sunday.
Mauro Icardi (ST) – The absolute heartbeat of the Nerazzurri, Inter is Icardi, and Icardi is Inter. The two have become inseparable since the Argentine’s arrival in 2013 and despite some of the biggest clubs in European football registering their interest in the forward, Icardi has stayed put and earned himself the captaincy at the San Siro. With nine goals in 18 league games this season, the striker will hope to add to his tally against Bologna and fire Inter into the Champions League again next year.