Fiorentina playing Inter Milan can only mean one thing: it’s time to check in with David McFarland, who’s been writing for Inter Xtra since the demise of our former sister site Serpents of the Madonnina. As per usual, we batted some questions back and forth about the upcoming festivities.
Viola Nation: Inter is, as expected, very much in the Scudetto conversation after a slightly down season in Serie A. What’s changed to get them back up in the standings? Is it a new tactical wrinkle, new players, or just vibes?
David McFarland: It’s almost entirely the same starting XI that scraped a top-four finish last season, but the vibes are completely different this time around. Simone Inzaghi has the team playing some beautiful football on both sides of the ball with 49 goals scored and 10 conceded in Serie A, an impressive turnaround that I have to admit did not see coming at all. Not only did Inter lose Andre Onana, Marcelo Brozovic, Edin Dzeko, Milan Skriniar, and Romelu Lukaku over the summer, but the long stretches of staleness made 2022/23 seem like the end of a trophy window. Replacement players have helped avoid that - Marcus Thuram especially, who fits perfectly alongside Lautaro up front - but in general, everyone is just playing better. I’m sure there are some more nuanced tactical explanations out there, but that’s the one I’m going with.
VN: Aside from the suspensions that Nicolò Barella and Hakan Çalhanoglu picked up in the Supercoppa (sincere congratulations, even if it was an idiotic format), will Simone Inzaghi have to rotate his side pretty heavily, or will it be the usual suspects? With a table-topping clash against Juventus next week, feels like keeping the powder dry might be wise.
DM: Those suspensions will lead to some forced rotation in midfield but other than that I expect a full-strength Inter with 5 days of rest post-Super Coppa final. With Juventus likely to be four points ahead (with 2 extra games played) by kickoff, Inter can’t afford to drop any points if it wants to stay within striking distance of the top spot as the Derby d’Italia looms on the horizon.
VN: Aside from the Coppa Italia loss to Bologna, Inter’s unbeaten since September and boasts the league’s best goal difference. Does that feel right or is there some element of luck in there? Any reasons to expect a decline, or does this feel like the baseline now?
DM: It feels pretty just to me. This team is clearly the best in Italy both offensively and defensively and when everything is clicking, one of the very best in Europe. Do I think we’ll win the Scudetto though? That’s where I’m not so sure. For as eye-catching as Inter has been, Juve has been equally as consistent and over a 38-game season, it’s the latter that makes champions. Inter has a lower floor than Juve when things aren’t going well (such as any sort of injury to Lautaro or Thuram - our striker depth is miserable) and I think that’s going to lead to the type of dropped points here and there over the coming months that can cost a Scudetto.
VN: Hop across the aisle and put on your purple-tinted glasses. Does Fiorentina have any reasons for optimism? Any reasons they could sneak a home win over Inter for the first time in the league since 2017?
DM: For sure. The absences of Barella and Calhanoglu put the midfield in the hands of a seemingly ageless Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Davide ‘more goals than passes’ Frattesi, and either Kristjan Asllani or Davy Klaasen, neither of whom inspire much confidence. All of the pressure will be on the Nerazzurri as well, with Juventus stealing first place thanks to Inter’s Super Coppa adventure. Plus, La Viola has made Inter sweat quite a bit over recent years even if the win is lacking, and I don’t see that changing this time around.
VN: You know how we always end these, David. It’s prediction time. What’s the final score, who (if anyone) gets the goals, and what’s the overall pattern of the game?
DM: I’ll go with an ugly 2-1 victory for Inter, with goals from Lautaro and Dimarco overpowering a Nico Gonzalez strike. Both teams will cancel each other out for long stretches, as Inter’s makeshift midfield struggles to meet the usual standard.
Thanks, David. Give him a follow on Twitter if you still hate yourself enough to be on that platform. Here’s the other half of our conversation.