Sunday’s rich Serie A program commences at the Stadio Carlo Castellani with a lopsided encounter between rock-bottom Empoli and pacesetters Inter. Let’s look at our match preview for this contest.
Last weekend’s humiliating 7-0 defeat away to Roma put the final nail in Paolo Zanetti’s coffin. After becoming only the third-ever side to kick things off in a new Serie A campaign with four losses in four, Empoli had no choice but to relieve the Italian manager of his duties.
As the only side in Europe’s top-five leagues yet to get on the scoresheet this season, the Azzurri have turned to a familiar face to reinvigorate the downtrodden squad. Only a year after leaving Tuscany upon the expiry of his contract, Aurelio Andreazzoli is back in charge.
It’s the 69-year-old’s fourth managerial stint at Empoli. But he couldn’t have hope for a sterner test on his return to the helm. High-flying Inter touch down at the Carlo Castellani, looking to maintain a flawless Serie A start following a 5-1 rout of Milan last weekend.
Complacency seems to have crept in after that overwhelming derby triumph, with Inter scoring from the only shot on target to hold Real Sociedad to a 1-1 draw in midweek Champions League action. Lautaro Martinez’s late strike salvaged a point for Nerazzurri in San Sebastian.
But this promises to be a straightforward task for last season’s Champions League runners-up, at least on paper.
After equaling an unwanted Serie A record with a humiliating loss at the Stadio Olimpico, Empoli could be staring down the barrel of another undesirable piece of history. No side has ever opened a new top-flight campaign with Italy with five consecutive defeats ‘to nil,’ an ominous feat hovering over Andreazzoli’s head upon his return.
Empoli must be aware of the task awaiting them on Sunday as they look to upset the apple cart and a long-standing tradition to avoid that fate. The Azzurri have finished on the receiving end in 23 of their 30 Serie A showdowns against Inter (W4, D3), suffering a thumping 3-0 defeat in this corresponding fixture last April.
Any potential disappointment in this match-up would see Inter beat Empoli on more occasions than any other team in Serie A history.
Player to Watch: Etrit Berisha
With Empoli expected to fight tooth and nail to avoid another embarrassment, all eyes will be on their goalkeeper. The Albanian has conceded a whopping 20 goals in his 11 appearances against Inter, including seven in a single game in 2017 during his career at Atalanta.
Empoli’s growing scoring problems aren’t the only reason Inter will take the field expecting to register another shutout this season. Before trouncing arch-rivals Milan last weekend, Simone Inzaghi’s men had won their opening three Serie A matches via a combined score of 8-0. And it only gets better.
In a run dating back to April 2006, Inter have recorded an eye-catching eight successive Serie A clean sheets at the Carlo Castellani en route to setting an unprecedented feat in the competition’s history. Since a goalless draw in January 2015, they have won five straight league visits to this venue, bagging nine unanswered goals during that stretch.
Delivering action from the onset, Inter have broken the deadlock within 25 minutes of all four Serie A outings this term. As such, traveling fans may not have to wait long to see their side on the board on Sunday.
Player to Watch: Lautaro Martinez
Selecting the Argentine as our ‘player to watch’ is a no-brainer. He’s been unstoppable this season.
Empoli will have to wait a while longer for Daniel Maldini’s Serie A debut in the blue shirt. The Milan loanee is still on the sidelines with a muscle injury, as is talented goalkeeper Elia Caprile.
On the other hand, Inter will be without Stefano Sensi and Juan Cuadrado. While Francesco Acerbi is back to the fold after an injury-hit start, Hakan Calhanoglu is a minor doubt after picking up a thigh problem.
Empoli vs Inter Potential Lineups
Empoli (4-3-1-2): Etrit Berisha; Bartosz Bereszynski, Sebastiano Luperto, Ardian Ismajli, Giuseppe Pezzella; Jacopo Fazzini, Razvan Marin, Simone Bastoni; Tommaso Baldanzi; Francesco Caputo, Nicolo Cambiaghi.
Inter (3-5-2): Yann Sommer; Benjamin Pavard, Francesco Acerbi, Alessandro Bastoni; Denzel Dumfries, Nicolo Barella, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Davide Frattesi, Federico Dimarco; Lautaro Martinez, Marcus Thuram.
Empoli vs Inter Prediction
Empoli can already see the writings on the wall before the kick-off. Given the circumstances, it’s hard to envisage anything other than the visitors’ landslide victory.
Prediction: Inter Win
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