In the derby against Milan, the Croatian saw the pitch again and soon, based on his athletic condition, he’ll be back in the starting lineup: from time to time the coach will exclude someone in the middle of the pitch. And he will find the captain’s armband
Eighteen minutes on the pitch, against his all-time rivals, and an honest 6 in his report card: “it contributes to active resistance” and that’s what Simone Inzaghi needed in the final of a derby dominated but still open at 1-0. The coach monitors Marcelo Brozovic’s athletic condition at each training session and, in general, the same applies to Romelu Lukaku: for the first leg match against Porto – Wednesday 22 February – the goal is to have both fully up to speed. And as for the attacking department, Inter squeezed the holders beyond all measure in midfield. The return of the Croatian, therefore, gives breathing space to the whole team. But who will breathe from the bench?
It is probably too early to say with certainty when Brozovic will return to the starting lineup, but the impression is that Henrikh Mkhitaryan is the player who most needs to catch his breath. The Armenian’s performances have almost always been up to par, but a 34-year-old cannot keep his performances at the highest level without taking breaks from time to time: 15 consecutive games as a starter is a huge amount, so the trio could soon return who in the summer would undoubtedly be the starting one. On the contrary, Nicolò Barella seems to be the most complex to replace with his three team mates, because they would all be adapted as right wing midfielders. It will happen, perhaps close to the round of 16 of the Champions League, but it will happen with a few more hesitations from those on the bench.
Certainly Inzaghi will always reflect at length on the midfield set-up, because Hakan Calhanoglu’s move to directing was the key to getting out of the September crisis and there is a minimal risk of altering the very precious balance. Brozovic, moreover, as owner would also find the much talked about captain’s armband, as he is third in the line of succession after Samir Handanovic and Danilo D’Ambrosio. Perhaps as early as Monday against Sampdoria, perhaps later, but Marcelo will have to arrive at the match against Porto with at least one game as a starter – and as captain – behind him. He will be forgiven for waiting, but now Brozovic is ready to take back his place. Who to exclude is a coach’s problem.
February 9 – 1.27pm
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