By Steve Mitchell
This game looked set to be an end of season friendly after Inter Milan failed to clinch a Europa League place next season. The only player who looked likely to have an interest in the match was Argentinean striker Mauro Icardi who currently sits in joint second position in the Serie A goal scorers chart with Carlos Tévez of Juventus. Both men have 20 goals, just one behind current leader Luca Toni of Verona.
Things have slightly changed now however after the team that took the final Europa League spot, Genoa, failed to obtain a Uefa licence. If the port city club are forbidden to take part in the competition then either Sampdoria or Inter Milan will replace them. Qualification is still a long shot for I Nerazzurri, they currently sit three points behind I Blucerchiati and will have to win their match against Empoli and hope relegated Parma can upset the odds at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris and beat Samp. If this happens then the Milanese giants, due to the fact that they have a better goal difference (their head to head meetings this season are identical), will take the place of Genoa.
Icardi will be looking for goals and his teammates will try their best to assist him in his quest to become Serie A’s top marksman. Brazilian playmaker Anderson Hernanes will again orchestrate play behind the young striker who is about to sign an extension to his current contract at the San Siro. Rodrigo Palacio should also get a starting berth in attack.
Chilean enforcer Gary Medel will in all probability, anchor the midfield alongside Croatian duo Mateo Kovačić and Marcelo Brozović and in goal Slovenian Samir Handanovič could be making his last appearance for the club before a summer move to Roma.
Empoli have been a revelation this season and coach Maurizio Sarri has worked wonders on a shoestring budget to ensure the Tuscan club will play in Serie A again next term. The 56-year-old Neapolitan tactician may be on the move himself this summer Sampdoria making no secret of the fact that he is on the shortlist to replace Siniša Mihajlović.
Sarri has built the Empoli team around talented midfield playmaker Riccardo Saponara who will have extra incentive on Sunday night as his parent club are city rivals AC Milan. 36-year-old veteran striker Francesco Tavano will replace another veteran striker, Massimo Maccarone (suspension) in attack. Alongside him will be Georgian hitman Levan Mchedlidze.
Just like their city neighbours Inter Milan face a summer of transition under the stewardship of coach Roberto Mancini. Club president Erick Thohir has promised to open up the chequebook to strengthen the squad but it seems their prime summer target, Manchester City midfielder Yaya Touré is now considering a move elsewhere. Having European football of some sort may help Mancini but another season without Champions League football could see I Nerazzurri fall even further behind Europe’s top sides.
Our Probable Formations:
Inter Milan (4-3-1-2) Handanovič; Nagatomo, Ranocchia, Vidić, Juan Jesus; Brozović, Medel, Kovačić; Hernanes; Icardi, Palacio
Empoli (4-3-1-2) Bassi; Hysaj, Rugani, Barba, Mário Rui; Signorelli, Valdifiori, Croce; Saponara; Tavano, Mchedlidze