Sports Mole previews Saturday’s Serie A clash between Lecce and Inter Milan, including predictions, team news and possible line-ups.
After their return to the top flight lecce face a rigorous test of their Serie A credentials as they welcome Inter Milan on Saturday to the Stadio Via del Mare.
Last season’s Serie B champions will host a side from Nerazzurri determined to reclaim the Scudetto in the 2022-23 season after finishing second at Milan in May.
Although last season’s title defense was so close but so far, Inter still enjoyed a successful season after the manager’s departure Antonio Conte and some key players from the Scudetto winning side.
While Simone InzaghiIn February, Lazio’s side lost control of the Serie A summit, eventually relinquishing the title to city rivals Milan. The former Lazio manager’s first season saw triumphs in both the Supercoppa Italiana and the Coppa Italia – each time beating bitter opponents Juventus to lift the trophy.
Over the summer, Inter moved quickly to bringing Romelu Lukaku returned to the club after failing at Chelsea and the Belgian striker is now igniting a strong partnership Lautaro Martinez. So far also a defensive mainstay Milan Skriniar was retained despite strong interest from Paris Saint-Germain.
Inzaghi’s quiet revolution seems to be gathering momentum but Inter’s pre-season form has been inconsistent ahead of this weekend’s competitions.
The Nerazzurri ended in defeat at La Liga club Villarreal, winning just once in five warm-up games; Cash in 10 times.
Still, Inter have won each of their last three opening games in Serie A and are unbeaten on 11 occasions against promoted teams – including in August 2019 when they beat Lecce 4-0 in Conte’s first game in charge.
Unlike their illustrious visitors, Lecce are currently the club who have played the most games without a single win on the opening day: 16 in total while losing each of their last five.
The southern side are back in the big time after winning a hard-fought Serie B title race that saw them promoted to Italy’s top division for the 10th time in their history.
After suffering relegation in a home defeat by Parma on the final day of the 2019/20 season, the Giallorossi returned to the promised land on a second try.
Led by an experienced coach Marco BaroniLecce, whose only previous stint in Serie A to date has been brief – it lasted just a few months at Carpi in 2017 – despite a reputation for playing entertaining football, Lecce are undoubtedly among the favorites to face relegation.
The omens do not bode well for the Puglia side – on the ‘heel’ of the Italian peninsular boot – as they ended their preparatory program in defeat by Parma before being eliminated from the Coppa Italia by Cittadella last weekend.
However, Lecce have a little piece of history on their side as they welcome one of Calcio’s heavyweights to the Via del Mare on Saturday night as they have been unbeaten in their last three home games against Inter – against no other side have the Nerazzurri managed a prolonged winless period Away run in Serie A
Lecce form (all competitions):
Form of Inter Milan (all competitions):
Simone Inzaghi has gradually reshuffled his Inter squad over the summer break, bringing in established stars like Romelu Lukaku and Henrikh Mkhitaryanplus some younger blood – Kristian Asllani, Raoul Bellanova and goalkeeper Andre Onana.
While the latter, who joined from Ajax on a free transfer, is already 26 years old, he offers much-needed competition for the captain Samir Handanovicnow 38. The Slovenian stopper will keep his place at least for the opening game on Saturday.
Ivan Perisic, Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez are among those who left and Perisic’s move to Spurs should see Federico Dimarco Lineup on the left side of the visitors’ 3-5-2 formation Matteo Darmian is another alternative.
At the top, Lautaro Martinez will be joined by Lukaku, who scored his first Serie A goals against Lecce on his debut in August 2019. The former Manchester United striker still has the best goals per minute rate of any current player in the league – averaging one goal every 125 minutes, better than Ciro motionless (127) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (140).
Meanwhile, Lecce has lost its main gunner Massimo Coda to Genoa during the transfer window, and the Serie B top scorer of the last two seasons was set to be replaced by Federico diFrancesco in the attacking line of the hosts.
The latter was one of a number of new signings in recent weeks, including another forward option Lorenzo Colombo – on loan from Milan – and Sampdoria couple Kristoffer Askildsen and Vladimir Falcone.
Falcone replaces the previous goalkeeper Gabrielbut the form of the team ahead remains to be seen as Marco Baroni could decide to adapt his preferred 4-3-3 setup to take on one of the Italian giants.
Lecce possible starting line-up:
Falcone; Gendrey, Blin, Dermaku, Gallo; Bistrovic, Hjulmand, Askildsen; Ceesay, Strefezza; Di Francesco
Inter Milan possible starting line-up:
Handanovic; Skriniar, De Vrij, Bastoni; Dumfries, Barella, Brozovic, Calhanoglu, Dimarco; Martinez, Lukaku
We say: Lecce – Inter Milan 1:3
Inter have clearly been in good form in the pre-season but have also shown signs of defensive vulnerability so a victory at Via del Mare should not be taken for granted.
While they may not keep clean sheets, the Nerazzurri will still win on the opening night of their 2022-23 season thanks to their abundant resources in the last third.
For data analysis of the most likely outcomes, goal scores and more for this game, please click here.