Bergamo provided the dramatic backdrop to the pre-Halloween thriller between Inter and Atalanta. Our heroes were away from home in a treacherous, cold and rainy environment facing a hostile villain that wanted to steal all three points. Could the Beneamata silence the Atalanta faithful and deliver a thrilling victory or would the hosts lurk in the shadows and grab the win? With Interisti watching worldwide, would they witness an Atalanta trick or an Inter treat?
Important Factors Prior to the Match:
- Inter must overcome their bogey team and walk away with three valuable points.
- Fatigue might play a vital role considering that Inter played most recently this past Saturday.
- How could the inclusions of Kovacic and Alvarez impact the game or would tired legs reflect a lackluster performance?
- The Nerazzurri have struggled with injuries of late and this may be instrumental in the outcome of the game.
- Cigarini has the potential to create chaos and Mazzarri's side must neutralize his ability to wreak havoc in midfield.
Inter were facing a team in Atalanta that they had struggled to beat on a multitude of previous occasions stemming back from the 2008-09 season. This may have been on the players' minds as the first half began with both sides struggling to maintain possession. The Inter players seemed a bit tentative early on as tired legs and minds were on display with heavy touches and stray passes. The dismal rain seemed to drench the pitch with water and coupling that with the fatigued Nerazzurri players, it favored a pressing Atalanta attack.
Kovacic and Alvarez were again a midfield pairing for the Nerazzurri and although the past match against Hellas Verona reflected their rotation in offense and defense, the Atalanta match saw the duo further up the field. Kovacic played further up field slightly behind Alvarez in a more attacking position than in the match against Verona.
Many Interisti were relieved to welcome Handanovic back in between the posts as he served his one-match ban from the Torino game. Relief would be short-lived as Handanovic seemed to have suffered a muscular problem in his abdominal area that necessitated a halftime substitution and Juan Pablo Carrizo came on in his place in goal. While the Nerazzurri have struggled early on in keeping key players off the injury list, a crucial player in the Inter defense was healthy and available for his first match of the season, Walter "The Wall" Samuel. Although Samuel had a lengthy battle with injury, his return was long awaited and he did not miss a step in defense as he slotted in perfectly between Juan Jesus and Rolando. His experience and veteran leadership was welcomed as he continued on as if not skipping a beat to seemingly read the attacking players' minds with great anticipation.
Palacio's header that fell to the feet of Alvarez, who converted it for a goal, was making a statement for a well-deserved contract extension. Recent criticism that stems from misinterpreted statistical data suggests that a lack of headers from the 5'9" striker may be grounds to substantiate withholding a new deal. To quell his critics Palacio utilized his head on two occasions, one resulting in an assist for an Alvarez goal while the other a pass up the field to Icardi, who then shot at goal and unfortunately hit the post.
After Inter scored the early goal, the team seemed to play deep within their own third of the pitch, inviting the opposition's offense and making it increasingly difficult to stave off an attacking side. This type of deep defending may prove problematic when facing more clinically offensive clubs who will take advantage of the lack of pressure applied. Denis exposed the defense once again, as Atalanta equalized through persistent attack following Inter's initial goal.
To start the second half, it was slightly worrisome that the Atalanta players tried in a most dramatic fashion to draw a penalty. Inter have yet to be awarded a penalty in the 2013-14 season, which is a troubling statistic as it potentially substantiates claims of inconsistent officiating.
A water-saturated pitch, the pouring rain, and fatigue for both teams seemed to eat away at the intensity level midway through the 2nd half. There was a let down from both sides during the last twenty minutes of the match, with only a few chances from both teams to score a winner.
While prior to the match, Cigarini's midfield presence was thought to be the key for Atalanta, his presence was neutralized by both Mazzarri's tactical approach as well as Mother Nature's pre-Halloween rainy weather treat.
Areas of Improvement:
- As previously stated in this same section of my analysis of the Inter-Verona match, the Nerazzurri continue to struggle with maintaining focus, concentration and defensive pressure throughout the entirety of the match. The Inter defense was guilty of committing 14 fouls and giving away 7 corner kicks as if it were candy on Halloween. It is a definite treat for any competent opponent and conversely quite tricky for the Inter defense to continue to place themselves in such a precarious position.
- Considering that Handanovic was injured and it was Samuel's first match back this season from injury, it is worrying that Inter have failed to keep a clean sheet in the last 5 games. The last match where the Nerazzurri shut out its opponent was against newly promoted side, Sassuolo. It will be imperative for Inter to improve upon this and hopefully will keep a clean sheet against the always offensive minded Udinese.
- Statistics aside, Palacio not only scores goals for the black and blue but provides assists and does the intangibles that statistics do not reflect, including winning balls and giving his teammates confidence on the pitch. To question Palacio's importance to this Inter side, one must question whether or not these same critics actually watch the matches they purportedly report on.
- Mauro Icardi seemed to have studied from the School of Il Principe, Diego Milito, as he duped the former AC Milan defender, Yepes. Unfortunately, the shot only hit the goalpost and ricocheted out, but it is an exciting prospect to see what the youngster can do when he is fully healthy.
- Jonathan provided an attacking force to be reckoned with on the right.
- Flashes of brilliance between the Inter attacking triad of Kovacic, Palacio, and Alvarez were on display and were reflected in the goal scored by the Nerazzurri strike force.
- Although the Inter defense needs improvement, the only positive when goals are conceded is that the reaction of the players is a change from the past season. After Atalanta scored the goal, the Nerazzurri players seemed to be better organized in offense and defense and were more focused in carrying out their boss's tactics on the pitch.
Leading up to the match, many thought Atalanta had a good chance to win, given their positive run of results against Inter in recent years. While the match was fairly open, with the Nerazzurri narrowly owning possession over their home field foes, both sides deservedly walked away from the match with 1 point each in a draw.
[Note: Reports suggest that Handanovic's possible abdominal injury sustained in the first half may not be as serious as previously thought and the starting Inter goalkeeper may be available for this weekend's match away against Udinese.]