Serie A Week 24 – 12 Feb 2017 (14.00 UK)
Inter – Empoli
Stadio Giuseppe Meazza

Inter vs Empoli Preview and Prediction

After two consecutive defeats in all competition, Inter are forced to make big changes as they host Empoli at San Siro.

Before their Coppa Italia loss to Lazio, Stefano Pioli’s side were the hottest team in the Italian flight, having won nine straight games in all competitions. They had conceded just five goals during that span – a big reason why they currently have the third best defensive record in the league. However, they’ve since been stewing over the refereeing decisions in the 1-0 Derby d’Italia loss to rivals Juventus.

The fallout from that defeat included two-match bans for Ivan Perisic and Mauro Icardi, both accused of insulting the officials. Eder and Rodrigo Palacio are expected to step in, as Gabriel ‘Gabigol’ Barbosa received just one start in an Inter jersey and that was in the Coppa Italia.

In front of goal, Stefano Pioli’s side haven’t exactly been firing on all cylinders, but they haven’t been terrible either. Unsurprisingly, Icardi leads the team with 15 goals and eight assists, so will be sorely missed.

Giovanni Martusciello and company look to further distance themselves from the dreaded relegation zone.

Empoli’s biggest problem this season has been their inability to find the back of the net, and the issue could be exacerbated Sunday against Inter’s aforementioned stellar defence. They’ve scored a woeful 14 goals, and have just two in their last five games.

They’ll need to rely on their respectable defence if they have any chance of picking up points, but could be in deep if they find themselves behind. The Azzurri have earned just one point this season after trailing in any match, and that only came last week when Manuel Pucciarelli’s equalizer against Torino cancelled out Adem Ljajic’s opener.

Indeed, Sunday’s tilt could become a rather lopsided affair if the visitors find themselves in trouble early but it won’t necessarily be a walk in the park for the home side either.

Giuseppe Bellusci sits out a ban with Manuel Pasqual and Andrea Costa nursing injuries.

Keep an eye on: Roberto Gagliardini (Inter) – The 22-year-old has been sensational for Inter since joining the club in January. Gagliardini has helped provide stability to Inter’s midfield, and has adjusted well to Pioli’s 4-2-3-1 system.

Form Guide: Inter (L W W W W) Empoli (D L W D W)

Last season: Inter 2-1 Empoli

Stat Fact: The lone San Siro success for Empoli was 1-0 in January 2004 and the most recent Tuscan win was 1-0 in April 2006, followed by a goalless draw and 10 defeats, home and away in all competition.

Top Tip: Inter by two clear goals

Inter (probable): Handanovic; D’Ambrosio, Medel, Miranda, Ansaldi; Gagliardini, Kondogbia; Candreva, Joao Mario, Eder; Palacio

Suspended: Perisic, Icardi

Empoli (probable): Skorupski; Laurini, Veseli, Cosic, Dimarco; Krunic, Diousse, Croce; El Kaddouri; Mchedlidze, Pucciarelli

Suspended: Bellusci