Qatar beckons with the World Cup opener just around the corner. Before attentions turn to the international stage, there is one final round of weekend fixtures. There are several fascinating Serie A encounters in store this weekend. One of which will see a struggling Inter Milan side travel away from home to face Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta.
Struggling Inter Milan Side Go on the Road
— Inter (@Inter_en) November 9, 2022
A Tightly Contested Fixture
Argentine duo Mauro Icardi and Ever Banega both scored a hat-trick in an emphatic 7-1 win for Inter Milan over Atalanta in 2017. These days are long gone now – with the latter coming to the fore more and more in the Gasperini tenure.
Since that dark day, there have been a surprisingly high number of draws in this fixture. The Nerazzurri have won three of the last ten games whilst Atalanta prevailed just once, a 4-1 victory on home soil in which Josip Ilicic played the key, creative role. Therefore, the other six have seen the points shared, three scoreless draws being among these.
When the pair last met in Bergamo in January, it ended in a goalless draw. In that same month, Simone Inzaghi’s side beat Lazio in the league and Juventus in the Supercoppa final, the only game they failed to win was against Atalanta. In the early stages of February, they became a struggling Inter Milan, with it all kick-starting in a fiery derby loss to the eventual Scudetto winners AC Milan.
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Turning attention towards the two teams form this season, Atalanta are currently sixth and on the same points tally their opponents this week, who are in fifth. Inter are 11 points behind pace-setters Napoli. On the plus side for Inzaghi, his team have advanced to the Champions League knockout rounds ahead of FC Barcelona, where they will clash with Portuguese outfit FC Porto.
Since losing to Jose Mourinho’s Roma on October 1st, the blue half of Milan have reined victorious in four out of five of their Serie A fixtures. The standout result has to be a dramatic 4-3 win in Firenze, with Lautaro Martinez scoring twice and Henrikh Mkhitaryan having the final say in the 95th minute. Their last outing provided the sole blemish, a 2-0 defeat to Juventus.
As one would expect from a Champions League-chasing outfit, Atalanta have had a strong run. Ademola Lookman opened the scoring on the weekend from the penalty spot against Napoli, only for Gasperini’s men to walk away empty-handed. Before that, they beat Fiorentina, Sassuolo and Empoli in October, alongside a draw with Udinese and a loss at the hands of Lazio.
Can Lautaro Martinez Make the Difference for a Struggling Inter Milan?
An Argentinian striker was the focus at the San Siro a few years ago in the form of Mauro Icardi, as was previously mentioned. His successor is a fellow countryman, Lautaro Martinez. The former Racing Club man has regularly been linked with a move away from Milano but has stayed put and continues to thrive.
Due to injury problems, Romelu Lukaku has only amassed 248 league minutes to date for this struggling Inter Milan side, piling the pressure further on the shoulders of Martinez. Edin Dzeko and Nicolo Barella have tried to support the Argentine striker with the Bosnian striker scoring seven times thus far and the Italian midfielder with six goals to his name showing why he is truly one of the best midfielders in the world, with 10 goal contributions to his name, at one every 125 minutes, which speaks to his quality when that is not necessarily what he does best.
🅰️ 28 pic.twitter.com/X1K1koLhnN
— InterHub (@InterHubOff) November 8, 2022
Flipping the script now and Atalanta themselves have had a rise and fall when it comes to match winners. Luis Muriel and Duvan Zapata were the previous stars, but the diminutive Colombian has scored just once, and his compatriot is struggling with injury issues. Lookman is the main man to have stepped forward, whilst Ukrainian Ruslan Malinovskyi is always a joy to watch, even though he only has one goal and one assist this campaign.
A lot of the focus comes down to both teams attacking talents, but both sides have defensive players worth watching. This struggling Inter Milan side in particular are case and point of this. Samir Handanovic’s shortcomings in goal are often covered up – by the brilliance of Milan Skriniar and Alessandro Bastoni, neither of who will be in action in Qatar.
Draws are common in this fixture and could easily be the case again. Atalanta have the home advantage in Bergamo but are potentially over-reliant on Lookman. Will Martinez end on a high going into the World Cup, or will Inter continue to languish behind Napoli?