Internazionale keep pressure on Juve ahead of derby d'Italia

Posted by Mike Whittaker

Diego MilitoGettyImagesDiego Milito will hope to swing the derby d'Italia Inter's way

Like all good Halloween nights, the one that saw the Nerazzurri host Sampdoria at the Giuseppe Meazza had a mixture of horrors and frights, tricks and treats. By the end of an eventful evening Inter secured their sixth league win in a row and leapfrogged Napoli into second place in the race for the Scudetto.

With Saturday's derby d'Italia against Juventus in the back of his mind Andrea Stramaccioni started the game without Juan Jesus and Esteban Cambiasso in his line-up, switching back to a 4-3-2-1 formation. In my opinion, Juan Jesus' absence from the team was sorely evident and by playing with just Walter Samuel and Andrea Ranocchia as centre backs the backline once again looked unconvincing. This may have been due to the fact that the wingbacks Javier Zanetti and Alvaro Pereira were also providing width for Inter's attacks, meaning that the two defenders were left alone at the back for lengthy periods during the game.

- Inter Milan 3-2 Sampdoria

The biggest horror of this Halloween night came from a Sampdoria free kick that resulted in a frighteningly easy opening goal. As the free kick was taken, communication in the Inter defence seemed to completely break down with both Samuel and Ranocchia going for the incoming ball but only managing to collide with each other, leaving a simple tap-in for the visitors.

Inter's defence was also responsible for Sampdoria's consolation goal in the dying moments of the game too. Matias Silvestre, who replaced Ranocchia, let the opposition attacker Eder pass him far too easily, slotting the ball past Handanovic into the back of the net. This kind of lapse in concentration is becoming all too common for Silvestre, and so far this season he is failing to live up to the ability we all thought he'd bring to Inter when he signed this summer. Luckily for the Nerazzurri he's only on a loan contract, so if he doesn't improve in the remainder of the season the club can easily offload him and send him back to Palermo.

After the break Inter were treated to their equaliser as Sampdoria's Andrea Costa brought down Milito in the penalty area, gifting the Nerazzurri a deserved penalty. This brought a bit of controversy to the night with the referee Doveri showing Costa a red card. It was harsh sending off as Costa ran into the back of Milito as he slowed down to control the ball and didn't intentionally barge into him.

Prior to the red card, Inter were already the more dominant side, but with the man advantage they were free to run rings around the visitors. With slick short passing they had complete control of the match. Their dominance is evident when you look at the match stats for the game and see that the home side held a comfortable 62% possession and an 89% pass completion rate.

It wasn't all good for Inter though, as I've said the defence didn't look to be the usual solid unit and the awesome attacking trident of Cassano, Milito and Palacio didn't quite fulfil their potential. They may have made a decent 17 attempts on Sampdoria's goal but only five of these managed to hit the target with an embarrassing 10 strikes ending up high or wide. Considering the experience and attacking strength in these three players, it's not unreasonable to expect at least 60% of the shots to hit the target.

However, there was more horror for Sampdoria as coach Ciro Ferrara was shown a red card for protesting too much about the Guarin goal. He claimed that Nagatomo, who provided the assist had been offside when Cambiasso played the ball out to him on the left wing. After watching the replay several times I can confidently say that Ferrara was wrong and although it was a close call, Nagatomo timed his run perfectly.

The biggest trick of the night though came in Turin where Juventus looked as though they would only take a single point from their game against Bologna. This would've left Inter just two points behind the league leaders going into their clash on Saturday evening, but by scoring in the final moments Juventus ensured that Inter would stay four points behind them.

Now Inter have a couple of days to prepare for the biggest game of the season so far, the derby d'Italia, and Juventus must be worried as in the last few games the Nerazzurri have proved they have got what it takes to not only end the Old Lady's 49 game unbeaten run, but also push them all the way to this season's Scudetto.

ESPN Conversations