Preview: Inter Milan vs. Sampdoria

After securing their spot in the Champions League’s last-16, Inter Milan return to Serie A duty on Saturday night, as they aim to make up lost ground by beating struggling Sampdoria.

While Inter cruised to a fifth win from six matches in midweek, Samp scrapped out their first league victory of the season at Cremonese, and now former Nerazzurri star Dejan Stankovic returns to San Siro seeking a major upset.

After previously taking four points from Barcelona in Champions League Group C, Inter reached the competition’s knockout stage for a second year in succession by beating pointless Viktoria Plzen on Wednesday.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan opened the scoring at San Siro, having bundled in the winner at the end of last week’s spectacular 4-3 win at Fiorentina, and Edin Dzeko’s subsequent brace was followed by a goal on the return of Romelu Lukaku, who appeared from the bench following several weeks on the sidelines with a thigh injury.

A recent resurgence has seen Inter claim five wins and a draw since being beaten by Roma at the start of the month, as they attempt to recover from a sluggish start to the season which leaves them outside Italy’s top six.

Following wins over Sassuolo and Salernitana, Simone Inzaghi’s men also came out on top in a thriller at Stadio Artemio Franchi last Saturday, when they pipped their hosts to all three points – after Luka Jovic equalised for Fiorentina in the 90th minute, Mkhitaryan managed to snatch victory in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

Nicolo Barella’s early strike in Florence means the Nerazzurri have scored the most goals of any Serie A side during the opening 15 minutes of play this season (six), while Saturday’s opponents have conceded the most (five) during this crucial period.

Not only does that bode well for Inzaghi’s hopes of prolonging Inter’s positive momentum, but the Milan giants have gone unbeaten in nine of their last 10 league meetings with Sampdoria; winning eight times in the process. Indeed, they have won each and every one of the clubs’ last five encounters at San Siro.

With only one victory in their last 20 league trips to face Inter in the second city, Sampdoria are certainly up against precedent as well as form when they arrive in Lombardy this weekend.

One man not unaccustomed to enjoying success at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, though, is new Samp coach Dejan Stankovic, who played a part in the Nerazzurri’s memorable treble triumph back in 2010.

Already, the former Serbia midfielder seems to be making an impact on his downtrodden charges, as they bounced back from defeat against Roma to progress via penalties in the Coppa Italia, before posting a first Serie A success of the season on Monday.

Though they had to withstand plenty of pressure away to fellow winless side Cremonese, the Blucerchiati eked out a 1-0 victory by virtue of Omar Colley’s 78th-minute strike and now aim to win two league matches in a row for the first time since last November.

Should Sampdoria ultimately climb away from the drop zone, Colley’s goal in Cremona – plus scrambling through in the cup thanks to Francesco Caputo’s 118th-minute equaliser and a dramatic 9-8 shootout win – could prove the catalyst for revival under Stankovic, following Marco Giampaolo’s doomed reign at Marassi.

Before his team meet Fiorentina in the Coppa’s last-16 early next year, the ex-Red Star Belgrade boss will aim to lift them from 18th spot in the standings, where they currently reside.

Fixing their form on the road could be an important step in that regard – Samp have won only two of their last 16 away games – but continuing their upturn on Saturday is a very big ask.

Inter Milan Serie A form:
Inter Milan form (all competitions):
Sampdoria Serie A form:
Sampdoria form (all competitions):

We say: Inter Milan 2-0 Sampdoria
Inter are drawless in their last 20 league games – their longest such run since the 1940s – while Samp have scored the fewest Serie A goals this season. Not surprisingly, then, a home win appears to be on the cards, with Lukaku’s return occurring just in time to match a Martinez hot-streak.

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