Sassuolo presents perfect opportunity for Inter win

Posted by David Wilson

Pier Marco Tacca/Getty ImagesNew arrival Hernanes is expected to make his Inter debut versus Sassuolo.

Inter welcome second-from-bottom Sassuolo to the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza this weekend in a game that should give Inter its first win of 2014.

It has been a really tough 2014 for Inter both on and off the pitch. But with the transfer window closed, it is time for Walter Mazzarri to rally his team and start winning games.

- Report: Thohir: Mazzarri should lead

Sassuolo are the perfect opponent to lift the gloom that has been surrounding the Nerazzurri recently. They have lost seven of their last eight matches in Serie A and have conceded at least two goals in their last five league matches .

For a gun-shy Inter squad, who have scored only two goals since January 1st, Sassuolo and their leaky defence could not have come at a better time.

Inter team news:

According to Sky Italia, Ricky Alvarez picked up a muscle injury in training this week, an injury that could keep him out for a couple of weeks. Esteban Cambiasso is still injured and I do not expect him back in time to face Sassuolo.

But new signing Hernanes is eligible to play and should start alongside Inter’s other January signing, Danilo D'Ambrosio.

Expected line-up:

Samir Handanovic in goal with a back-three of Hugo Campagnaro, Rolando and Juan Jesus. I am not sold on the three-man defence against good attacking teams, but that should not be a concern versus Sassuolo.

Mazzarri has been experimenting with playing a more attack focused 3-4-2-1 formation recently and I expect him to continue that experiment on Sunday. That means only two in central midfield, once of which is almost certainly to be Hernanes.

Against Juventus last weekend, Mazzarri went with the trio of Saphir Taider, Zdravko Kuzmanovic and Mateo Kovacic and they were totally dominated by Paul Pogba, Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal.

Kovacic, in particular, came in for some criticism from the Inter boss after the game for his failure to get close to Pirlo. Taider was the best of the three and I expect him to retain his starting position alongside Hernanes. The two wing backs should be D'Ambrosio and Yuto Nagatomo.

Hopefully, after getting two games off to clear his head following an up-and-down transfer window, Fredy Guarin is mentally ready to pull on an Inter shirt. With Alvarez out, Inter really need Guarin to step forward this week and return to the form that he had earlier in the season.

The big decision for Mazzarri is who plays alongside Guarin and just behind the striker.

The Inter boss has a couple of options here. He can bring in Kovacic alongside Guarin with Rodrigo Palacio in the lone-striker role, or he can drop Palacio back alongside Guarin and start Diego Milito up-front, something he has done a couple of times this season. Palacio seems to relish playing in more of a No. 10 role, where he can often get the ball facing the opponent's goals, instead of with his back to it.

If Milito is in goal-scoring form, this is the most potent attacking trio for Inter. But Milito is not in good form, and is lacking sharpness as he comes back from a long spell on the sidelines.

The 34-year-old Inter legend has only managed eight shots this season in eight appearances, scoring two goals.

Unfortunately, Palacio has not been in much better form recently either, as his three big misses against Juventus last weekend showed. Two of them were the sort of chances that a top goal-scorer like Palacio should bury, but the Inter striker could not even hit the target with any of them.

This is why I think that Mazzarri should start Mauro Icardi up-front with Palacio and Guarin behind him. Icardi joined Inter in a big money move last summer, but has hardly played, making only eight appearances as a substitute in the league this season.

Inter are not catching Napoli or Roma for that third Champions League place this season, so why not see if Icardi can be the striker that Inter thought they were getting last year? If Icardi disappoints, then Mazzarri will know that he needs to bring in a top striker this summer. But if Icardi lives up to his potential, maybe Inter have the striker they need already in their squad.

I don't see that happening though. I expect Mazzarri to go with Milito up-front with Guarin and Palacio behind him.

Prediction:

This is a must-win game for Inter and I expect them to win, although not as comfortable as they did when the two sides met earlier in the season.

Score: Inter 3 Sassuolo 0.

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