MX23RW : Thursday, July 29 19:08:19| >> :120:15090:15090:
Jan 3, 2021 at 11.30am UK at San Siro
Inter MilanInter Milan
6-2
CrotoneCrotone
Martinez (20', 57', 78'), Marrone (31' og.), Lukaku (64'), Hakimi (87')
FT(HT: 2-2)
Zanellato (12'), Golemic (36' pen.)
Reca (8'), Golemic (22'), Luperto (52')

Preview: Inter Milan vs. Crotone - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Sunday's Serie A clash between Inter Milan and Crotone, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Serie A returns after its brief winter break with a David versus Goliath-style encounter between second-from-top Inter Milan and second-bottom Crotone on Sunday.

The Nerazzurri come into 2021 on a run of seven consecutive league wins, while their modest visitors ended a difficult first part of the campaign with a rare win over Parma.


Match preview

Inter Milan midfielder Nicolo Barella pictured in October 2020© Reuters

Antonio Conte's Inter squad enter the new year in a head-to-head Scudetto battle with their fellow San Siro-sharers AC Milan and, so far, they have won 10 times and suffered only one league defeat - in the derby against their enduring Rossoneri rivals.

Despite having four points less than at the same stage last year, Inter will justifiably believe that their chances of finally reclaiming the championship after an era of Juventus dominance are better than at any time in the last decade.

Their agonising exit from the Champions League - and European competition entirely - can only serve to help the Nerazzurri in knocking the Old Lady from her perch, as Inter will predominantly play only one game per week - with just a possible handful of midweek Coppa Italia ties to complete before the end of spring.

As befits an expensively assembled outfit with an array of attacking options, Conte's men have the best goalscoring record in Serie A - with 34 goals so far - and their final win of a year which saw them narrowly miss out on league and European success in the summer came at Verona, with a 2-1 victory being sealed by goals from Lautaro Martinez and Milan Skriniar.

Martinez's volleyed strike moved the streaky striker onto six goals in Serie A this season on a rare occasion when Romelu Lukaku (top scorer on 11 goals) did not hit the target. Wing-back Achraf Hakimi supplied a fourth assist of his first campaign in the Nerazzurri shirt at the Bentegodi, and the former Real Madrid man has been among the club's most impressive performers in recent weeks.

Though Inter have conceded 11 goals at home already, averaging just over 1.5 per game, their defence has begun to return to its previous resolute best lately and will be a tough obstacle for Crotone to surmount on Sunday afternoon.

Crotone manager Giovanni Stroppa pictured in October 2020© Reuters

In their last match of a mixed year - when they secured promotion to the top flight but then took several months to register a first win of the 2020-21 campaign - Crotone overcame fellow strugglers Parma 2-1 at home.

A fine brace from Brazilian forward Junior Messias - who seems to be finally sparking into life - helped the Calabrian side finally move off the bottom of the league table through just their second victory of the Serie A season.

The pacy striker, having worked his way up through the lower divisons of Italian football, now has five top-flight goals and his two doubles have led to wins against clubs that are just above Crotone in the table. Now with nine points, they are within touching distance of Spezia (11) and Parma (12) who sit just above the relegation zone.

With seven of those points gleaned from their last four outings, Gli Squali have belatedly begun to find their feet back in Serie A.

However, conceding too many goals - a total of 29 so far - gives them the second-worst defensive record in the league together with Spezia and Giovanni Stroppa's men arrive in Milan with most observers still seeing them as easy meat for in-form Inter.

Although Crotone were able to hold Juventus to an improbable 1-1 draw that earned their first point of the season, the New Year begins with three similarly tough encounters - first against Inter, then at home to Roma before a tricky trip to Verona.

On the road, the Rossoblu have picked up only two Serie A points, conceding 16 goals at a rate of 2.29 per game while scoring just five, so Inter will expect to brush their first visitors of the year to San Siro aside this weekend with the minimum of fuss.

Inter Milan Serie A form: WWWWWW
Inter Milan form (all competitions): WDWWWW

Crotone Serie A form: LLWDLW


Team News

Inter Milan manager Antonio Conte pictured in November 2020© Reuters

Antonio Conte can benefit from a shortening injury list, though there are still a handful of Inter absentees. Young striker Andrea Pinamonti and midfielder Matias Vecino - who is expected to leave the club during the transfer window - remain out, while injury-prone Alexis Sanchez may only be ready for a spot on the bench.

After a fine spell of form to end 2020, Ashley Young should again be favoured to alternative wing-back option Ivan Perisic, with fast-improving Achraf Hakimi taking the right flank in Conte's customary 3-5-2 setup.

As Sanchez is still struggling for fitness, Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez will start up front, while Nicolo Barella plays in behind them - with Stefano Sensi most likely to feature from the bench.

Visiting coach Giovanni Stroppa also has few men missing, though they include significant cogs in the Crotone machine. Midfield creator Ahmed Benali, experienced campaigner Luca Cigarini and right-back Andrea Rispoli are set to sit on the sidelines.

Pedro Pereira, on loan from Benfica, and direct wing-back Arkadiusz Reca will be tasked with countering Inter's strong attacking options out wide, as Stroppa also prefers a 3-5-2 formation.

Inter Milan possible starting lineup:
Handanovic; Skriniar, De Vrij, Bastoni; Hakimi, Barella, Brozovic, Vidal, Young; Lukaku, Martinez

Crotone possible starting lineup:
Cordaz; Magallan, Marrone, Luperto; Pereira, Molina, Petriccione, Vulic, Reca; Simy, Messias


SM words green background

We say: Inter Milan 3-1 Crotone

Inter can afford to pick a full-strength side to take on their plucky Calabrian challengers this Sunday and - after a week's rest and recuperation - look well-placed to continue their relentless pursuit of Milan at the top of the table.

Though Crotone have undoubtedly improved, their defensive inadequacies can be ruthlessly exposed by the Nerazzurri's high-calibre front line at San Siro.


Top betting tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 2.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 2.5:data


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Inter Milan's Romelu Lukaku celebrates scoring against Bayer Leverkusen on August 10, 2020
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JapanJapan154625
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Great BritainGreat Britain57618
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Friday's key events


ATHLETICS
· The athletics schedule begins, with 100m sprinter Dina Asher-Smith among the names in action on the opening day. The men's 10,000m final concludes the action, with Team GB's Sam Atkin and Marc Scott taking part in the absence of 2012 and 2016 champion Sir Mo Farah (1am-2.30pm)

ROWING
· Victoria Thornley is Team GB's representative in the women's single sculls final (1.33am)
· Great Britain will be going for gold in the men's eight final (2.25am)

SWIMMING
· Team GB duo Molly Renshaw and Abbie Wood take part in the women's 200m breaststroke final, but new Olympic record-holder Tatjana Schoenmaker of South Africa is the hot favourite (2.41am)
· Luke Greenbank has very realistic ambitions of picking up a medal in the men's 200m backstroke final (2.50am)
· There is also British representation in the women's 100m freestyle final, although any medal for Anna Hopkin would be a surprise (2.59am)
· With one gold and one silver already under his belt at these Games, Duncan Scott goes again in the men's 200m individual medley final (3.16am)

TRAMPOLINE
· Bryony Page will be looking to repeat her 2016 heroics in the women's event (5am-7.30pm)

CANOE SLALOM
· Bradley Forbes-Cryans will be looking to emulate Rio gold medallist Joe Clarke in the men's kayak event (6am-9am)

FOOTBALL
· The women's tournament enters the quarter-finals, with Great Britain facing Australia at the Ibaraki Kashima Stadium (10am)

> Today's schedule in full
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Atalanta BCAtalanta00000000
2Bologna00000000
3CagliariCagliari00000000
4Empoli00000000
5Fiorentina00000000
6Genoa00000000
7Hellas VeronaHellas Verona00000000
8Inter Milan00000000
9Juventus00000000
10Lazio00000000
11AC Milan00000000
12Napoli00000000
13Roma00000000
14Salernitana00000000
15Sampdoria00000000
16SassuoloSassuolo00000000
17SpeziaSpezia00000000
18Torino00000000
19Udinese00000000
20VeneziaVenezia00000000

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