Serie A Preview: Inter vs Cagliari

Gabriele Maltinti

The Nerazzurri hope to secure their third straight victory when they welcome the Sardinians to San Siro…

Don't look now but the overall outlook for Inter looks peachy keen following a month of doom and gloom.

The Nerazzurri are coming off a morale-boosting 2-1 victory over Fiorentina after substitute Mauro Icardi scored the winner in the 65th minute.

A quick peek at the fixture list shows that the Beneamata will likely be favored in nine of their next 10 games before what very well could be a Champions League decider against Napoli at the end of April.

I can't quite believe what I just wrote in the previous paragraph but after rereading it once more it's true. Two weeks ago Inter seemed to be on the verge of an all-too-familiar collapse in the second half of the season but now we are realistically talking about Europe.

That is, if the Nerazzurri can take care of business against teams that are below them in the standings, something they have not done particularly well so far this term.

Still, you have to like Inter's chances of beating a Cagliari side that is in serious turmoil. Diego Lopez was widely expected to be sacked this week only for his assistant coach Ivo Pulga, who was poised to take the top job, to get the boot.

The Sardinians are ripe for the picking and Walter Mazzarri's men must ruthlessly seize the opportunity to secure all three points without looking ahead to the clash against Roma next weekend.

THE VITALS

Date: Sunday, Feb. 23

Time: 9:00 am, ET

Venue: Giuseppe Meazza

BATTLE DOSSIER

Inter Probable Formation: 3-5-2: Handanovic; Rolando, Samuel, Juan Jesus; D'Ambrosio, Guarin, Kuzmanovic, Hernanes, Nagatomo; Palacio, Milito

Cagliari Probable Formation: 4-3-1-2: Avramov; Perico, Rossettini, Del Fabro, Murru; Vecino, Dessena, Ekdal; Cossu; Sau, Nene

Unavailable For Duty: Mazzarri has the luxury of choosing from a fully fit squad apart from Ricky Alavarez, who is still nursing a pulled hamstring.

Operation Three Is The Magic Number: The objective is to pull out another victory, especially with the partisan supporters backing the squad before the launch of the major spring offensive.

Enemy Of The State: Former Juve midfielder Albin Ekdal will be chomping at the bit to score against Inter. The Swede always turns it up a notch against us and I'm fully expecting a tireless performance from the 24-year-old. I'm also hoping he runs into the 'Wall' on more than one occasion to tame his youthful exuberance.

Fear Factor: 5: Cagliari is as frightening as a married couple having a major blowout in front of the children with divorce ultimately agreed upon as the preferred choice for both parties only to see them half-heartedly reconcile days later to protect the kids.

Medal Of Honor: Rodrigo Palacio snapped a six-game Serie A scoring drought by netting the opener against Fiorentina and let's hope the Argentine adds to his team-leading tally of 11 on Sunday.

If Inter Wins: I will pound back the Gulden Draak 9000s in my fridge and drunk dial my Sardinian buddy Pinto to tell him that his team is comprised of a bunch of country bumpkins before adding fuel to the fire by predicting that the Leafs will miss the NHL playoffs.

If Inter Loses: I will unplug my house phone so my buddy Pinto can't brag about his team of slack jawed yokels holding us to without a win in the season series before going on about how the Leafs are going to win the Stanley Cup.

Likely Outcome: I can't see why the good times have to stop rolling this weekend. Cagliari has only scored five goals in its last nine games and with Inter's back line playing with a renewed sense of confidence that trend should continue. I like Icardi to come off the bench and make his presence felt as the Nerazzurri cruise to a 3-0 victory.

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