Lazio vs Inter Milan predictions: Inzaghi can down former club
Simone Inzaghi returns to Lazio, where he cut his managerial teeth following a 10-year playing career, but the Inter Milan boss will be in no mood to do his old club any favours.
Defeat at Stadio Olimpico last season was Inzaghi's first in Serie A as Inter manager and one of only four league losses for the then-defending champions.
If that had been three points rather than none, Inzaghi would have claimed the Serie A crown in his first season in charge, rather than suffer the pain of passing the club's crown to city rivals AC Milan.
However, his Inter side finished 2021-22 strongly and have picked up where they left off in the opening stages of the new campaign as they look to regain the scudetto.
And in what looks set to be a hugely competitive scrap for supremacy in the Italian top flight, there can be no room for sentiment when a former hero returns.
Having been sent off six minutes into his Lazio debut on the opening weekend, goalkeeper Luis Maximiano returns from suspension to provide Maurizio Sarri with a fully fit and available squad.
The Lazio coach may choose to stick with Maximiano's replacement Ivan Provedel, however, with the fellow summer signing performing well in both games and being beaten by only a penalty in his two outings.
Sarri is also highly likely to continue to exclude centre-back Francesco Acerbi from the squad, with the Italy international heavily linked with a move to Inter.
The Nerazzurri are missing only summer signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who should return next week following a minor thigh strain.
Denzel Dumfries is likely to continue on the right of Inzaghi’s five-man midfield after coming on for Matteo Darmian on the opening weekend against Lecce to score the winner and then starting against Spezia last weekend.
Lazio's 3-1 victory over Inter last season was their only win home or away against any of the teams who finished above them.
A 2-2 draw at Juventus was the only other point the Biancocelesti collected against the sides finishing in the Champions League places, with Milan and Napoli both doing the double over Lazio and Sarri’s side losing away at Inter and at home to Juve.
That sole Stadio Olimpico success made it three consecutive home meetings with Inter in which Lazio are unbeaten, with the Rome outfit drawing 1-1 in the capital in 2020-21 following a 2-1 success in 2019-20.
However, this season's renewal could provide an even bigger test as Inzaghi's men are on a roll, winning 10 of their last 11 Serie A games – a run that includes victories over Juventus and Roma.
And with Romelu Lukaku back in Nerazzurri colours, the old Lu-La partnership is back up and running between the Belgian and Argentine striker Lautaro Martinez – together the pair struck 37 goals in 2019-20 and 41 goals in 2020-21.
Lukaku scored within two minutes of his second spell at the club, netting away at Lecce on the opening weekend, and he followed up with an assist for Martinez in the next match; a 3-0 defeat of Spezia.
It is only the third game of the season but the pressure is already on all of the Serie A title chasers.
Inter, current scudetto holders Milan and 36-time champions Juventus all have strong claims to this season's title, while even Roma and an impressive-looking Napoli side appear to be serious contenders.
Despite finishing fifth last term, Lazio are not in that bracket of potential winners, but they will be a tricky side to overcome for all the challengers.
However, with the race looking so tight, an away draw at the likes of Lazio, which would previously have been considered a solid result, might now be seen as a missed opportunity.
Every point will count and it could be the case that Italian title challengers are more inclined to go for broke in the latter stages of tricky away matches rather than settle for a draw.
It will not make the game any easier for Lukaku and co but with this season's title winners likely to need 90 points or more, there could be some thrilling late-match drama in contests such as this.
That should make for a cracking match in which the hosts will fancy getting on the scoresheet but Inter should make their overall quality tell to take all three points.