After a loss to Sassuolo and drawing Atalanta, Inter will be keen on getting back to winning ways as they welcome Carpi to the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza this Sunday. The Nerazzurri rebounded in style after two disappointing league losses by defeating Napoli in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals, but the morale-boosting win was marred by controversy off the pitch. A spat between coaches Roberto Mancini and Maurizio Sarri quickly turned ugly as the Partenopei boss was accused of hurling homophobic slurs at the ex-Manchester City boss. Despite Mancini clearly not being gay, he nonetheless was disgusted with his tactical opponent’s behavior and after some back-and-forth in the press, Sarri apologized and both sides have moved on from the incident.
Inter will now turn their attention back to the Scudetto race, in which they have slipped to third behind Juventus and Napoli. The Nerazzurri will be hoping to avoid another negative result to make sure they stay within touching distance of the top two as they chase their first league title since the 2009/2010 season. With four points out of their past four games, the hosts will be loath to allow Carpi to pull off some kind of upset as they have already lost at home to Lazio and Sassuolo; the last time they suffered three straight home defeats was nearly three years ago in April 2013.
A shining light despite their mid-season stumbles has been their excellent defense, which has conceded just 13 goals in 20 rounds so far. This is, of course, due to sterling performances of goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, who has a whopping 12 clean sheets in 20 appearances, and in the last ten matches, has conceded just five goals (six if one counts the own goal committed by Jeison Murillo in the 1-1 draw with Atalanta). The Slovenian international was again in top form as he had to come up with save after save to deny Napoli – not an easy feat considering that the Partenopei boast one of the most in-form strikers in Gonzalo Higuain and have the strongest attack in the league with 41 goals.
Handanovic will be again between the posts for the upcoming game against Carpi, which will represent a special milestone for Mancini as this will be his 200th Serie A game on the tactician’s bench. It could also be a special afternoon for Mauro Icardi, who is seeking his 50th Serie A goal and the Argentinian, who has not scored since their 1-0 win over Empoli on January 6th, will be hungry to add to his goal tally on Sunday.
Although they sit in 18th place, Carpi have had a good start to 2016. Save for a 2-1 defeat to AC Milan in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals – a game that was not so easy for the Rossoneri – the Biancorossi have yet to lose a league game since the start of this year. Fabrizio Castori’s men have racked up seven points in their past three games, which may not seem like much, but considering that they had only ten for the entire first half of the 2015/2016 campaign, this is an impressive feat indeed. Still, Inter will pose a much sterner test, especially considering that the Nerazzurri boast arguably the best keeper in Serie A – and certainly among the best in Europe’s major leagues – and Carpi, without sounding snarky, isn’t exactly Juventus or Napoli in terms of firepower. In fact, only Udinese and bottom-ranked Hellas Verona have scored less goals (18 and 13 respectively) than Carpi’s 19.
To complicate matters, Carpi, who put up a good fight the first time they faced Inter, will have to contend with the absences of several players due to suspension and injuries. Isaac Cofie and Riccardo Gagliolo will miss out due to a ban, whilst Ryder Matos and Igor Bubnjic have not recovered from their long-term injuries.
All things equal, this is a must – and should – win for Inter if they want to prevent the Bianconeri and Partenopei from breaking further away from the pack. Carpi have been solid, but they are now hampered by further absences and Nerazzurri fans will be expecting nothing but a win from their team tomorrow afternoon. Will Inter, fresh off a midweek win get back on track? Or will Serie A new-boys Carpi pull off what would be a shock upset at the Giuseppe Meazza and further dent their title ambitions?
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