Scudetto holders and Serie A leaders Inter Milan seek to start the new year in the same manner 2021 ended, as they aim to extend a seven-match winning streak at Bologna on Thursday.
Crowned ‘Winter Champions’ just before the mid-season break, the Nerazzurri have been relentless since their last league loss back in October, so will make formidable opponents for an inconsistent home side.
After a 1-1 draw in the Derby della Madonnina back in November, each Serie A outing since has ended in victory for Inter, who concluded a special year for the club by winning their last six league matches without conceding even a single goal.
That scintillating streak took Simone Inzaghi’s side from seven points shy of top spot to four points clear at the summit, as their purple patch coincided with the faltering form of title rivals Napoli and Milan.
Inzaghi inherited the bulk of a squad that had just secured the club’s first title for a decade, and the first half of the current campaign suggests he has even managed to improve on Antonio Conte’s impressive blueprint.
Indeed, during the past 12 months, Inter became the first team to have netted more than 100 Serie A goals in a calendar year since 1950 and won a total of 19 home league games in 2021 as a whole – testament to both coaches’ efforts in a demanding job.
Following a brief pause over the festive period, the champions now resume with a series of six matches in sixteen days, starting with Thursday’s return to Serie A duty, and the Supercoppa Italiana against Juventus is scheduled for next week at San Siro.
Assuming they take care of business at Bologna, Inzaghi will also lead his team out against Atalanta, his old club Lazio and city rivals Milan over the course of the next month, so this could prove to be a crucial phase in their Scudetto defence.
Not only will Inter arrive at Dall’Ara in prime form, the home side have also failed to beat them in each and every one of their last 15 encounters there – losing on no less than 12 of those occasions.
Draws have been few and far between, too – the clubs have not shared the points since 2017 – and inconsistent Bologna have also become a ‘win or bust’ proposition in Serie A.
The Rossoblu had not drawn in 11 league games – winning five and losing six – before the curtain came down on the first half of the season, which at least leaves them enjoying mid-table respectability.
Sitting 10th at the turn of the year, Sinisa Mihajlovic’s men closed out 2021 by bouncing back from successive defeats to Fiorentina, Torino and Juventus with victory in the Emilian derby against Sassuolo.
The 3-0 scoreline that day featured a stunning strike by Scottish full-back Aaron Hickey, one of the success stories of Bologna’s campaign, along with top scorer Marko Arnautovic, who has fared well since returning to Italy in the summer.
Both will need to be on top form this week, though, if their side is to fare better than in a 6-1 thrashing by Inter back in September, when they were simply swept aside at San Siro.
Bologna Serie A form:
Inter Milan Serie A form:
Inter Milan form (all competitions):
We say: Bologna 1-3 Inter Milan
Unbeaten in their last 11 league fixtures ahead of the game, the visitors can continue their positive momentum on Thursday lunchtime, as they visit one of their favourite sides to meet.
Recent dominance over Bologna – and an enviable record away from home – certainly points to free-scoring Inter claiming another victory to start 2022 in familiar style.