League leaders Inter will host Udinese this Saturday as they look to maintain their lead at the top of Serie A.
The Nerazzurri have yet to lose a game this season in the league, winning 12 and drawing four. One of those draws came last Saturday, as they were unable to beat third-placed Juventus away from home.
Udinese head into the game 13th in the Serie A league table, seven points above the relegation places, but with a game-in-hand. Massimo Oddo’s side have hit some form though after winning their last three games, two of those wins came in the league, while the other was an emphatic 8-3 victory over Perugia in the fourth round of the Coppa Italia.
Here is everything you need to know ahead of the clash at the San Siro:
In a fixture that has largely been dominated by Inter, the recent head-to-head record has been more even between the two teams. From the last 10 fixtures, Udinese have managed to win three times and draw one. One of those victories was particularly memorable as they managed to win 5-2 away from home back in 2013.
The Little Zebras stormed to a 2-0 lead in the first 10 minutes with goals from Giampiero Pinzi and Maurizio Domizzi. But Inter struck back in the 12th minute when Juan Jesus managed to squeeze a low strike past Udinese goalkeeper Zeljko Brkic.
However, the away side pulled away quickly again, with two goals coming either side of half-time. Antonio Di Natale’s fantastic curled effort from the left-hand side of the box and Gabriel Silva’s chip over the goalkeeper saw Udinese take a 4-1 advantage.
A 63rd minute strike from Inter’s Tommaso Rocchi gave his side some hope, but that only lasted a few minutes until a mistake from the home side’s defense allowed Luis Muriel to score Udinese’s fifth goal and seal the game.
Mauro Icardi vs Danilo
Inter captain Mauro Icardi is not only his sides top scorer, he is also Serie A’s leading finisher. He has netted an impressive 16 goals from as many games, and is one of the key reasons why his side are at the top of the league table.
This sets up an interesting battle with Udinese’s skipper Danilo. The Brazilian has played 12 times for his side this season and has helped keep a clean sheet on four occasions.
The away side will need their captain to be on top form if he is to help add another clean sheet against the league leaders.
Matias Vecino vs Jakub Jankto
Jakub Jankto has been in fine form this season for Udinese, getting three goals and two assists in 13 league appearances this campaign. One of those assists came last Sunday as the midfielder helped his side to a 2-0 win over Benevento.
Inter midfielder Matias Vecino may be the player who is tasked with stopping Jankto in this Saturday’s game. Vecino signed for Inter in the summer and has featured in all but one of their 16 league games so far, helping his side keep seven clean sheets from his deep central midfield role.
The winner of this battle could prove to have an influential effect on the outcome of the game.
Inter are expected to make many changes from the team that beat Pordenone on penalties in the Coppa Italia on Tuesday.
Joao Mario could miss out again with tonsillitis, as could Eder who has muscular fatigue.
Udinese have no new injury concerns heading into this Saturday’s game, with Valon Behrami potentially still out with inflammation.
Potential Inter Starting Lineup: Handanovic; D’Ambrosio, Skriniar, Miranda, Santon; Vecino, Gagliardini, Candreva, Valero, Perisic; Icardi.
Potential Udinese Starting Lineup: Bizzarri; Larsen, Danilo, Nuytinck; Widmer, Adnan, Barak, Fofana, Jankto; Lasagna, Lopez.
With the 0-0 draw against Juventus, Luciano Spalletti’s Inter remained unbeatan in Serie A this season. This emphasises the great form the league leaders are in.
Udinese have hit a good patch of form themselves, winning three games on the bounce and scoring 13 goals in the process. You would still perhaps expect Inter to take the three points but it could prove to be a tough game for them.
Prediction: Inter Milan 3-1 Udinese