The marquee matchup in Serie A this weekend is in Milan, where Internazionale host Napoli at 3:45 p.m. ET Sunday. Napoli are currently atop the table, with a single-point lead over six-time defending champions Juventus, although Juve have a game in hand. Inter, meanwhile, sit in fifth, a point outside the Champions League qualification spots, although the two teams in front of them, Roma and Lazio, have also played one more game. It’s a pivotal match for both clubs.
Inter will have to overcome a lot to really challenge a Napoli side that — despite its shocking 4-2 defeat to Roma last weekend — has consistently been the best in Italy. The major problem for Inter is simply that they’ve been incredibly streaky all season. They didn’t lose their first match until Dec. 16, against Udinese, their 17th game of the season. They won 12 of those first 16 games and sat first in the table, a single point ahead of Napoli. In the 10 games since, they’ve won twice. — Michael Goodman
Inter’s Roller-Coaster Ride
It has been a complete and total tale of two seasons for this Inter side. Usually when a stark change like Inter’s happens, there’s a lot of luck involved. Perhaps an extremely hot finishing side cools down, or a keeper stops standing on his head. But Inter’s underlying numbers have also changed dramatically. Even during their hot stretch, Inter weren’t a dominant attacking team. Their 33 goals were fourth in Italy during the first 16 games of the season, and outpaced their 27 expected goals, a total which was fifth in the league. Since then, they’ve only scored nine goals. Only four teams have scored fewer. And while part of that may just be variance, their expected goals over that stretch is at almost 13, which ranks ninth in Serie A over that time. Inter’s expected goals per game dropped from 1.66 to 1.29.