Udinese v Inter Milan – Dacia Arena at 11:30 live on BT Sport 3
Controversial Inter Milan captain Mauro Icardi said the three months under the watch of Frank de Boer were “unbearable” and has this week commended the positive impact Stefano Pioli has had on the club’s players following his arrival.
De Boer was dismissed on 1 November after four defeats in five Serie A matches and Icardi is certain that move has benefited Inter, who appointed Pioli a week later, with the Nerazzurri now up to seventh after five wins in seven games (W5-D1-L1).
Inter concluded 2016 with three successive triumphs ‘to nil’ and have narrowed the gap on third-placed Napoli to five points. With games against Sunday’s hosts Udinese, Chievo, Palermo and Pescara to come, it would seem on paper at least as if Inter have a good chance to narrow the gap on the leading clubs further.
Inter seeking Champions League football
Owners Suning are throwing yet more money at the team and already look like the most aggressive foreign investors to ever buy into Serie A. After spending €120 million in the summer, Atalanta midfielder Roberto Gagliardini is set to join for €28m with Champions League football sought for 2016/17.
There is something ominous about the Nerazzurri in the second half of this season with the team now able to rest, recover and game-plan more now they’re out of Europe. And it could be argued that performances might have deserved more from their efforts up until this point to.
Only Roma have fired in more shots from inside the opposition penalty box this season and Inter’s 63.76% shots in the box ratio is only bettered by Juventus.Meanwhile, only Napoli, Roma and Juventus have returned a higher expected goals rate at this stage.
It’s been good fun too, especially under Pioli. Six of the new boss’ eight games in charge across all competitions have broken the two-goal barrier whilst at the San Siro the visitors have bashed out seven successive home victories.
But that’s where the niceties but end. Inter will be without Felipe Melo, who is suspended and seemingly close to concluding a move back to Brazil with Palmeiras. Rodrigo Palacio is also unlikely to play as he edges closer to a move to Atalanta.
The overreliance on Icardi remains an issue. The skipper has scored 16 goals in 23 matches in all competitions but other players must begin to dig in, especially on the road where Inter have now suffered eight defeats in 12 Serie A outings.
The Nerazzurri’s more nine-game away form reads a dreadful W1-D1- L7 and although Pioli’s seen his side suffer a sole league defeat in games as guests under his tutelage, it’s a timely reminder that things aren’t quite yet fine and dandy.
Udinese looking up
Hosts Udinese allayed relegation fears with a fine conclusion to 2016. Luigi Delneri’s side took 10 points from 12 (W3-D1- L0) to motor into the top-half of the table and since mid-October the Zebrette have bagged an impressive W5-D3-L2.
Venezuelan forward Adalberto Penaranda remains out, as is Icelandic midfielder Emil Hallfredsson, but there’s still plenty of punch in the current Udinese crop that’s more than capable of bringing Inter back down to earth on Sunday lunchtime.
The Zebrette have scored first in six of their past 10 at the Stadio Friuli and whilst their record in front of their home fans isn’t convincing (W3-D2- L4), Udinese have been performing above-average across the majority of performance data metrics as hosts.
Despite the obvious positivity in the Inter camp, their away form makes punting the Nerazzurri on Sunday near impossible at the prices. With that in mind, it makes sense to oppose the visitors and invest our faith in Udinese with a +0.50 start on the Asian Handicap betting market.
Asian Handicap Recommendation: Udinese +0.5 at 1.91
Prices correct at time of writing.
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