Defeat in the Derby d’Italia saw Inter slip behind Lazio in the race to finish second to runaway leaders Napoli, while the international break intervened just when the Viola were building up a head of steam.
Not for the first time in their long and often bitter rivalry, Inter and Juventus played out a controversial clash just before Serie A stopped for international football to take centre stage.
Beaten 1-0 in an ill-tempered encounter at San Siro, the Nerazzurri lost to Juve for the second time this season, after Filip Kostic’s superb strike split the sides in Milan. In the build-up, Adrien Rabiot had appeared to handle the ball, but after a long VAR check the goal ultimately stood.
Both teams had a man sent off at the end as scuffles broke out, and another defeat leaves Simone Inzaghi’s side third in the standings, now two points shy of Lazio in second and two ahead of city rivals Milan, who sit fourth.
Nine losses from 27 fixtures so far represents Inter’s worst such tally since the 2011-12 season, when they ended up in sixth place, but as they rarely draw these days it is generally a case of ‘win or bust’ for Inzaghi and co.
Having previously lost to lowly Spezia, if they cannot fare better against in-form Fiorentina then the Nerazzurri would go pointless through three straight Serie A matches for the first time in six years.
In addition to Romelu Lukaku’s welcome, if overdue, return to form while on Belgium duty boosting their goal threat, history is certainly on their side as they aim to avoid doing so: Inter are unbeaten in each of their last 11 league games versus the Viola.
Having drawn the club’s last league meeting in Milan, just over a year ago, Fiorentina are now aiming to build on a brilliant run before the break by beating Inter in Serie A for the first time since April 2017 – a remarkable 5-4 thriller at home in Florence.
Vincenzo Italiano’s current crop blazed a trail through March by extending their success streak to a total of seven successive wins – the most recent being a 1-0 victory over Lecce.
With a place in the Europa Conference League quarter-finals assured and the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final clash against Cremonese coming up next week, Fiorentina are also back in the top half of the table as a result of such fine form.
One of the Viola’s victories, over Inter’s old foes AC Milan, formed part of a four-game winning sequence in Serie A – the most they have managed since 2018 – and confidence will be high in the camp ahead of their trip to the second city this weekend.
Losing to a breakaway goal in stoppage-time – shortly after Luka Jovic’s volley seemed to have salvaged a point – brought a heartbreaking conclusion to their last tussle with Inter in October, when a see-saw affair ended 4-3 to the Nerazzurri. In Saturday’s reverse fixture, then, gaining a measure of revenge may also serve as motivation.
Inter Milan Serie A form:
Inter Milan form (all competitions):
Fiorentina Serie A form:
Fiorentina form (all competitions):
We say: Inter Milan 2-1 Fiorentina
After their momentum was disturbed by a fortnight’s break, Fiorentina’s hot streak is set to come to its end on Saturday evening. Inter must get back on track ahead of another high-stakes meeting with Juventus, and with Brozovic and Lukaku finally returning to full fitness they can claim all three points.