Mazzarri to rest weary legs for Coppa Italia

Posted by David Wilson

Giuseppe Bellini/Getty ImagesWalter Samuel is back from injury and could start in the Coppa.

The matches are coming thick and fast for Inter at the moment, which has a positive side as it means we can move on from Sunday's disappointing 1-0 defeat to Lazio.

On Thursday, Inter travel to Udinese in a Coppa Italia round of 16 clash. With another game on Monday, this time against Chievo in the league, Walter Mazzarri is expected to use the Udinese game to rotate his squad and field some players that we have not seen much of recently.

There is a question on whether this is the right approach from Mazzarri. It is pretty clear that Inter are not going to catch either Juventus or Roma for the title this season. After Sunday's defeat, Inter are now eight points behind Napoli for the third Champions League place, and qualifying for European football's flagship competition next season looks more and more unlikely with every poor result.

Instead of the season being viewed as a disappointment, the Coppa Italia not only offers the opportunity to kick off the Erick Thohir era with piece of silverware, it also guarantees that Inter will be back playing in Europe next season, albeit in the Europa League. Which is why playing the strongest team possible at the Stadio Friuli makes sense to me.

However, Mazzarri picks the team, not me, and this is how Inter are expected to line up on Thursday:

Goalkeeper: Juan Pablo Carrizo

Samir Handanovic had his best game in weeks on Sunday against Lazio. He was dominant in the area and made a couple of terrific saves. It would be good to see Handanovic continue in goal, but Mazzarri is likely to give Juan Pablo Carrizo a match. He hasn't played since the end of October so giving him 90 minutes will allow the Argentinean to regain some match sharpness.

Defence: Hugo Campagnaro, Walter Samuel and Jesus

Water Samuel is back from injury and after watching the Lazio game from the substitutes' bench should start on Thursday. Samuel has played sparingly this season, 217 minutes in total, but in a couple of those appearances, Atalanta and Livorno, he played really well.

Alongside him, expect to see Campagnaro. I am a big fan of the of the defender, who has battled injuries this season, but whoscored.com still has Campagnaro ranked as Inter's second-best player this season. Add in Juan Jesus, who was Inter's best player on Sunday, and Mazzarri has the makings of a solid defence.

Midfield: Jonathan, Zdravko Kuzmanovic, Javier Zanetti, Mateo Kovacic and Yuto Nagatomo

With no Wallace in the Inter squad it seems likely Mazzarri will go with his usual two wingbacks in Jonathan and Nagatomo.

Who will play in the three central midfield positions will present Mazzarri with the most difficult choices. Expect Mazzarri to rest Esteban Cambiasso, and replace him with Inter legend Javier Zanetti as a holding midfielder parked in front of Inter's back three.

With Saphir Taider still injured the logical move is to start Zdravko Kuzmanovic alongside Zanetti. Kuzmanovic shows glimpses of the talent that he has, he just needs to play the whole 90 minutes and not be dragged off after 60 minutes as Mazzarri keeps doing.

The third midfielder should be Mateo Kovacic. There is a risk in playing both Kuzmanovic and Kovacic together, but with the veteran leadership of Zanetti, Campagnaro and Samuel in this line-up, it is a risk worth taking.

Forwards
Fredy Guarin is suspended for Monday's league match against Chievo and will start against Udinese in his preferred No. 10 role. Guarin was awful at the weekend and I am expecting him to bounce back from that against Udinese.

Mazzarri may well rest Rodrigo Palacio and give Diego Milito the start instead. It has been a tough 18 months for Milito as he has battled injury after injury. But he is fit at the moment, and that is always good news for Inter. With no Mauro Icardi or Ishak Belfodil in the Inter squad, this is a great opportunity for Milito to show that he is still the best finisher at Inter.

Subs
There should be plenty of experience on the Inter bench, such as Andrea Ranocchia, Ricky Alvarez, Esteban Cambiasso and Rodrigo Palacio. That will give Mazzarri plenty of options to change things up depending on what the score is.

Prediction
I expect Inter's strength of squad to pay off here and for them to squeeze through to the quarterfinals with a tough 2-1 victory.

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