19:30 BST, Sunday 19 August – MAPEI Stadium (Reggio Emilia)
Inter Milan carried out a final day smash-and-grab last term, securing Champions League football at host Lazio’s expense before embarking on some shrewd summer business.
That fourth-place finish gave the club a strong platform to build on and Luciano Spalletti will look to take full advantage of his new-look squad.
Most would conclude Inter had a good Mercato, but remarkably they concluded their business without spending a penny, a testament to Piero Ausilio’s skills as a sporting director.
Sassuolo toiled at the start of the last campaign, rocked by the departure of Coach Eusebio Di Francesco after a five-year reign. However, they wrestled clear of the drop zone to finish the season in 11th place.
Their poor home form contributed to their woes and Roberto De Zerbi’s men will look to improve on the four victories they recorded at the MAPEI during the last campaign. An opener against Inter looks tough, but they have won six of their previous ten encounters with the Nerazzurri.
Last time out
Sassuolo 5-1 Ternana [Coppa Italia]
A tricky looking Coppa Italia tie against Ternana turned into a stroll for Sassuolo, who passed their first competitive test in style. Kevin Prince Boateng opened the scoring after just nine minutes before Domenico Berardi doubled the lead from the penalty spot in the 23rd minute.
Duncan added a third after 29 minutes before Berardi hinted at a return to form, adding a second just before the break to make it 4-0.
Unsurprisingly, the second half was a damp squib, with both sides resigned to the outcome. Marino Defendi pulled one back for the visitors in the 72nd minute, but it took just seven minutes for Francesco Magnanelli to restore the four-goal cushion.
Atletico Madrid 0-1 Inter [Friendly]
While Sassuolo warmed up for this game against third-tier opposition, Inter tested themselves against one of Europe’s premier teams.
A trip to the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano is never easy, even in a friendly match, but Inter passed the test with flying colours, edging to a 1-0 win over Atleti.
New boy Lautaro Martínez scored the crucial goal and will hope to take his pre-season form into the competitive realm.
Kevin Prince Boateng will make a welcome return to Serie A occupying a central role in a front three. He likes to drop deep and could add an extra dimension to the neroverdi’s play this season.
Federico Di Francesco has joined the club just a year after his father left his coaching role and could start on either flank in a 4-3-3 formation.
Inter Milan Lineup
Spalletti often surprises with his team selections and formation, so expect a lot of bewilderment among Inter fans during the campaign.
A lack of options forced his hand last year, with a 4-2-3-1 the shape of choice. Based on that, here’s how Inter might set up for the opener.
Key Battle: Berardi (Sassuolo) vs Asamoah (Inter)
Domenico Berardi joined the youth ranks of Sassuolo eight year ago and has since made 179 appearances for the club. His goals fired them to the top flight in 2013 where they have remained ever since.
He has struggled for form over the last two years but he is still only 24 years of age and Boateng’s arrival should benefit him. He was on target when Sassuolo pulled off a shock win against Inter at the Giuseppe Meazza back in May and has shown promise in the lead up to this game.
Berardi could find himself up against former Juventus left back Kwadwo Asamoah who joined Inter in July. The Ghanaian made 156 appearance during a six-year spell in Turin and will look to lock down a starting berth at his new club.
Will Inter’s summer signings click?
Inter could have challenged for second spot had they not crumbled last winter. A host of new signings should give the coach more options heading into the new campaign and that could be crucial as they strive to compete on multiple fronts.
Radja Nainggolan is a seasoned Serie A campaigner and should hit the ground running. If the likes of Keita Balde and Lautaro Martinez, Stefan de Vrij and Sime Vrsaljko can do the same it could be a big year for Spalletti’s men.
Prediction: Sassuolo 1-1 Inter
Inter have won just one of the last seven meetings between the two and lost the last three in a row. Both sides strengthened in the summer and both arrive here in excellent form. The visitors will start as favourites but they might just settle for a draw against their bogey team.
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