Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

The Serie A season begins in a little over three weeks, yet the curtain raiser for Italy’s top flight takes place this Saturday.  While Inter have been a constant in the Supercoppa over the last six years, this year’s matchup holds special significance.  Not only is it once again being held in Beijing’s historic Bird’s Nest Stadium, Inter’s opponents are city rivals and last season’s Scudetto holders, AC Milan.

Unfortunately for the Nerazzurri, the last seven days leading up to the Supercoppa has been full of anxiety.  Even though the squad is still technically in preseason, there have been injuries that have hit the squad and ended up changing the original schedules and plans designated by the coaching staff.

This past weekend saw Inter take part in the inaugural Dublin Super Cup, with Manchester City, Celtic and an “All Ireland” XI also invited to the tournament.  Inter, of course, were handed the tougher matches, beating Celtic on Saturday 2-0 and losing to Manchester City 3-0.

The match against Celtic was very volatile, with the Scottish side fouling hard and often early on.  Inter lost Yuto Nagatomo within five minutes of kick off to a dislocated shoulder, much to the dismay of everyone.  Inter’s goals came from Luc Castaignos and Giampaolo Pazzini in the first half, coincidentally after both had been fouled hard.  Thiago Motta was unjustly red carded near the end of the first half before Pazzini’s goal, leaving Inter to play the rest of the match with ten men.

It was a foregone conclusion that Inter would have an uphill battle against Manchester City in the next match after only a 24 hour turn around.  Due to injuries and absences, a number of players who played the majority of the previous day’s encounter also played on Sunday, showing signs of Inter’s thinly stretched preseason squad.  Julio Cesar had been recalled early from his holidays due to the injuries to goalkeepers Emiliano Viviano and Luca Castellazzi and started in goal.  Inter’s tired legs were apparent, as City could have easily been up three goals through the first half. The English side broke through at the end of the half, with none other than Mario Balotelli netting the goal.  City scored their second shortly after the second half kickoff and the third in injury time.

These matches were a good way to gain match fitness, but it would be hard pressed to try and read too deeply between the lines due to the fact of Inter missing a good chunk of the team.  An important, albeit easy, decision was made to recall Javier Zanetti in lieu of Nagatomo’s injury as the Inter Captain was already back in Milan late last week.

Inter left for Beijing on Monday and were greeted upon arrival in by some of the 85 million Inter fans from China.  Besides training for the match on Saturday, this week has helped strengthen the bond between the Nerazzurri and their Chinese ties.  There have been plenty of media mixers, presentations, and meet and greets set up with the Inter squad to help quench the thirst of the Chinese public for anything and everything Inter.  One of the main events to have happened in China was the debut of the new Inter suits by Versace, with Donatella Versace herself emceeing the festivities.

As far as on the pitch activities, Inter held a double training session yesterday and have had Thursday morning off with training to resume in the evening.  Inter should be able to field a strong squad on Saturday against a full strength Milan squad, even though the Copa America participants (Lucio, Maicon, Diego Milito, and Esteban Cambiasso) and the injured are obviously not available.  Cesar is slated to start in goal, with murmurs of Zanetti and Davide Santon filling the fullback positions.  Walter Samuel will be back in the starting XI after sitting out the match against City, potentially being partnered with Andrea Ranocchia.  The midfield should consist of Dejan Stankovic, Thiago Motta and Wesley Sneijder, with Samuel Eto’o and Giampaolo Pazzini up top.  The eleventh spot is dependent upon Gian Piero Gasperini and the formation he decides to start with.

For the first time in a while, Inter are considered the underdogs but all labels can usually be disregarded when it comes to the Derby della Madonnina.

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