“Coraggio Pazza Inter”, read the headline on Tuesday morning’s famous pink Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport, translating into English as “Have courage, crazy Inter”. The words of encouragement were ahead of the Milanese side’s Champions League fixture versus Tottenham, due to be played at their magnificent San Siro stadium that evening.
Perhaps those words may have seemed a little harsh for the uninitiated onlooker, yet “pazza” – literally meaning crazy – is a word given to the club by its own supporters, their rollercoaster history enough even for those who follow the team to so outwardly admit it.
Their summer spend was impressive to say the least, the club’s hierarchy determined not to repeat the same mistakes made by wasting huge sums of money on players who would never have worked out. This time, owners Suning bought exactly the right players to fill the notable gaps Coach Luciano Spalletti was working with last term, prompting many raised eyebrows on the peninsula.
Suddenly, Inter – who only just scraped into the Champions League qualification places on the final day of last season – were in the conversation as potential title challengers, even though Juventus had acquired the services of Cristiano Ronaldo. Their fans, perhaps burned by disappointments of the past, had slowly started to believe this side could genuinely achieve something this season, not only in the league, but by competing in Europe’s most elite competition for the first time since 2011/12.
Yet those hopes would soon come crashing down as Inter lost their opening match away to Sassuolo, let a two goal lead at home to Torino slip to 2-2, and last Saturday were defeated by lowly Parma at San Siro with only a 3-0 win over struggling Bologna to celebrate during their four total matches.
“I think that with the period we’re going through this is the game we needed,” revealed Spalletti in his pre-Tottenham press conference. “It’s one of those matches and one of those competitions you wouldn’t swap for anything. I’ve been lucky enough to experience them several times, there are incredible emotions and if you’ve been there you can’t do without it.”
The Coach may see this match as an opportunity to turn around his side’s poor start to the campaign, but defeating Tottenham will not be an easy task. Spalletti looks set to be forced into deploying a three-man defence on this occasion, the Tuscan boss severely hampered by a lack of full-backs. Danilo D’Ambrosio and Sime Vrsaljko are both out injured, while the club were forced to leave Frenchman Dalbert out of the Champions League squad due to FFP restrictions.
Despite this, Argentine striker Mauro Icardi looks set to make his long-overdue debut in the competition, having finished last season as Serie A’s joint top-scorer. He will provide a real threat to the Premier League side with his penchant for deadly accuracy in front of goal, and the Spurs defence will also have to be vigilant over Croatia World Cup star Ivan Perisic who will support Icardi on the wing.
The thing is about Inter’s nickname is that it works both ways, and this side are more than capable of springing a surprise even when they seem like they at their lowest ebb. Tottenham – who of course can themselves be erratic at times – will have to be on their guard that they don’t meet Inter at their bonkers best instead of their wacky worst.