PREVIEW-Soccer-Inter playing catch-up for a change when they face Fiorentina


By Trevor Stynes

Jan 25 (Reuters) - Inter Milan, fresh from their Supercoppa triumph, find themselves in the rare position this season of going into the Serie A weekend in second place, one point behind Juventus.

Back in early October, on matchday eight, Inter's draw with Bologna allowed AC Milan briefly take over at the top, but since then their city rivals have slipped away, and Juventus are the side challenging for the title.

Simone Inzaghi's side do have a game in hand on the leaders, as Inter were busy in Saudi Arabia last weekend defeating Lazio 3-0 in the semi-final followed up by a 1-0 win over Napoli on Monday to lift their eighth Supercoppa.

Focus now returns to the Scudetto race where Inter face an away game at Fiorentina on Sunday, an always entertaining clash which often serves up plenty of goals, with last season's game in Florence proving to be no exception.

Fiorentina looked to have rescued a point when Luka Jovic made it 3-3 in the 90th minute, but deep in stoppage time Henrikh Mkhitaryan silenced the home crowd with a late winner.

Inter also broke Florentine hearts in last season's Coppa Italia final where Lautaro Martinez scored twice after his team mate with Argentina, Nicolas Gonzalez, gave Fiorentina an early lead.

Martinez scored the only goal in the Supercoppa final, and has netted 18 goals in 18 Serie A games, while Gonzalez missed the last five league games with a hamstring injury but is expected to return to the Fiorentina bench this weekend.

Inter are without Nicolo Barella and Hakan Calhanoglu, both suspended, and Fiorentina are missing their suspended captain Cristiano Biraghi.

Fiorentina are up against the meanest defence in Serie A, in fact Inter have the best defensive record across Europe's top five leagues, conceding just 10 goals in 20 games, not good news for a side whose strikers struggle to find the net.

Between them, Lucas Beltran and M'Bala Nzola have managed just six league goals, two of those coming from the penalty spot, but Beltran is hitting form at just the right time as his four league goals have all come in his last six appearances.

When the sides met at the San Siro earlier this season, Inter romped to an easy 4-0 win, but now fourth-place Fiorentina have their eyes on Champions League qualification.

Juventus could stretch their provisional lead to four points by the time Inter play, as they host relegation strugglers Empoli on Saturday, but will need to be wary of in-form Szymon Zurkowski.

Empoli are second from bottom with just four wins all season, but two of those came away to Fiorentina and Napoli, and last weekend they had a 3-0 victory over Monza, with Zurkowski scoring a hat-trick.

The Polish midfielder recently returned to Empoli from Spezia for another loan spell at the club, making an immediate impact with four goals in two games.

Milan, seven points off the top spot in third, are aiming for their fifth consecutive league win when they host Bologna on Saturday.

Napoli look to put their inconsistent form behind them, failing to win consecutive league games since Walter Mazzarri took over in November, when they travel to face Lazio on Sunday.

AS Roma target back-to-back wins under new manager Daniele De Rossi with an away game at bottom of table Salernitana on Monday.

(Reporting by Trevor Stynes Editing by Christian Radnedge)


The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


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