With the Serie A kicking off in just a few short days, it’s time to look at Fiorentina’s season-opening opponent. Because whoever designs the league’s schedule is twisted and evil, the Viola will travel to the San Siro to meet Inter Milan and a couple of recent departures. Anyways, we got in touch with Matt Clark, who’s the boss over at our sister site Serpents of the Madonnina and a really cool and talented dude, to answer some questions about the Nerazzuri.
Viola Nation: As we head into this Serie A season, what’s going on at Inter Milan that makes you feel pretty good? Conversely, what’s going on that’s got you feeling not so good?
Matt Clark: First, one of the best things, at least to Nerazzurri fans, is the signing of Luciano Spalletti. His leadership is something we have all been looking for and his presence is enough to create solid optimism about Inter’s chances. On the down side, we are in the midst of dealing with midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia’s refusal to practice as he wants out of Milan. Hey, the own-goal against Chelsea was a killer, but I’m not sure he has lived up to his potential here.
VN: What grade would you give Inter’s mercato? Who’s going to have the biggest impact on the team (please don’t say Borja Valero because ripping at scabs isn’t a great thing)? Who’s the biggest waste of time and energy?
MC: Inter’s mercato started very slow thanks to Financial Fair Play. We really didn’t get involved until after the FFP deadline of June 30. That said, while we haven’t dropped as much cash as AC Milan, we have had some quality pickups — two of which came from Florence but shall remain nameless! The biggest impact player we have picked up this transfer season would have to be Dalbert from Nice. Right now, our weakness is on defense, but adding Dalbert and Sampdoria’s Milan Skriniar eases those fears a bit. Dalbert is quick and controls the ball well. He can be a great counterattack option with his speed and ability to move the ball forward. If I had to point the finger at a waste of time in the mercato, perhaps Daniele Padelli as a backup goalkeeper from Torino, but that would be a big stretch to suggest it was a waste of time to sign him on a free transfer.
VN: For this match in particular, which Nerazzuro is going to be most important? Who’s got the best matchup? Who are you worried about?
MC: For this match in particular, I would like to think Joao Mario will be the most important. With the most midfield experience in Milan right now, it will be up to him to help direct traffic both on offense and defense. He’s had a solid preseason and with Ivan Perisic and Mauro Icardi healthy and ready to play up front, Mario is going to need to be on his A-game to feed the ball through. I worry about our defense in its entirety. I haven’t been convinced with Yuto Nagatomo’s play in the back. Despite Dalbert and Skriniar being there, I still think we have some holes to fill.
VN: Which Viola player are you most anxious to face? Which one are you looking forward to picking on?
MC: I am anxious to see Bruno Gaspar. I think you billed it correctly when you said he can be a lynchpin for the Viola this season, if given the opportunity. The right side has been a thorn in the Viola’s side for a few years now and Gaspar can go a long way to shoring that up. If he can, it could stifle Inter’s attacking game.
VN: Since yall are now veterans of the Stefano Pioli experience, what do you expect to see from Fiorentina under his tutelage in this match, and for the season in general?
MC: With Pioli it can be a mixed bag. It could end well, or it could be an absolute disaster. The bigger concern for the Viola has to be the upper management and not so much what is going on with field leadership. That said, if management strips his players away, don’t expect Pioli to take that lying down.
VN: Last of all, let’s do the prediction game so everyone can laugh at us for not knowing a darn thing. What’s the pattern of this match, and what’s the final scoreline?
MC: In terms of predicting the first game of the season, we just set ourselves up to be laughed at because, well, it’s the first game of the season. All of that said, I think despite the holes, Inter’s defense is going to hold Fiorentina a bay while Perisic, Éder and Mario exploit an untested defense. I would say 3-1 to Inter.