Inter will look to continue their ascent up the Serie A ladder when they travel to the Stadio Carlo Castellani on Saturday afternoon to take on struggling Empoli.
Inter come into the game off an impressive 3-1 home victory over Genoa, in which things finally looked like they were improving under boss Roberto Mancini. This made it four games unbeaten for the Nerazzurri, who will be confident of going on a run considering their upcoming fixtures.
Empoli, on the other hand, made it six games without a league win when they fell 1-0 to Sampdoria on the weekend, which left them in 15th place and nearing the relegation zone.
Inter have won their last six encounters with Empoli, with the last meeting coming all the way back in February 2008. A Zlatan Ibrahimovic penalty settled that tie, and it is curious to know that none of the 18 players in that Matchday squad still remain on the Nerazzurri books.
Inter captain Andrea Ranocchia and midfield star Mateo Kovacic – fresh from signing a new deal – are expected to come straight back into the side from suspension for Marco Andreolli and Hernanes respectively.
New signing Xherdan Shaqiri will once again have to settle for a place on the bench, but is expected to be given some game-time after spending the whole Genoa match as an unused substitute. Meanwhile, controversial striker Pablo Osvaldo is expected to be left out of the Matchday squad once again, as the club decides what to do with his future.
Empoli welcome back defender and top-goalscorer Lorenzo Tonelli, who missed the Sampdoria game due to suspension. He is expected to partner impressive youngster Daniele Rugani in the heart of the defence. Regular left-back Mario Rui is suspended for this match however due to an accumulation of yellow cards, with Vincent Laurini expected to be drafted in at right-back, and young Albanian Elseid Hysaj shifted to the left.
Inter will be heavy favourites as Roberto Mancini continues his rebuilding of the squad and aims to carry them up to the pinnacle of Italian football once again. Empoli’s problem this season has been scoring goals, but Massimo Maccarone is favoured to lead the line once again. The former Middlesborough striker has only netted two goals this season, and will need to be at his best to cause the Nerazzurri rearguard problems.
Form Guide: Empoli: (D-D-D-D-L) Inter (L-W-D-D-W)
Expected Starting XIs
Empoli; Sepe; Laurini, Tonelli, Rugani, Hysaj; Croce, Valdifiori, Vecino; Verdi; Pucciarelli, Maccarone.
Inter: Handanovic; Campagnaro, Ranocchia, Vidic, D’Ambrosio; Medel, Guarin; Palacio, Kovacic, Podolski; Icardi.