As the opening minutes of the Coppa Italia final unfolded, a packed Stadio Olimpico witnessed some unexpected scenes. By the time Nico Gonzalez found the opener, with less than three minutes on the clock, it was already clear that Fiorentina‘s early lead was far from fortuitous.
In spite of enjoying arguably their best form of the season, Inter’s start to the game was marked by unusual difficulties – their intensity and quality, which allowed them to defeat AC Milan with relative ease in a two-legged Champions League semi-final. They were matched and even outdone by a brave Viola. It served as a reminder that Fiorentina’s ability to expose Inter’s weaknesses has been a recurring trait of the encounters between the two sides this season.
Vincenzo Italiano’s tactical choices put Inter to the test
Most of the credit goes, obviously, to coach Vincenzo Italiano, who has been refining his strategy to trouble the Nerazzurri game after game, while learning from past mistakes and inevitably coping with the quality gap that separates the two squads.
Having already scored four goals against the Nerazzurri in their previous two Serie A fixtures this season, getting one dramatic last-minute defeat and one win in the process, Italiano was well aware that accepting to take risks, for example allowing Inter to isolate their attacking duo against Nikola Milenkovic and Lucas Martinez Quarta, was the most effective way to hurt their opponents.
By taking such a bold approach, characterized by an extremely high back-line, Fiorentina managed to put on intense pressure to hinder Inter’s build-up from the back, one of their most lethal weapons which they regularly exploit to open up gaps in their rivals’ formation.
Fiorentina pressed relentlessly, but intelligently, rotating duties as was fit so as to not be caught overcommitted.
How Fiorentina prepared Inter for the Champions League final
Simone Inzaghi can rejoice in putting his fourth Inter trophy under his belt but, above all, he should be pleased to have seen his side escape from a trap that, with due proportions, may be similar to the one they’ll find in Manchester City in the Champions League final.
Pep Guardiola‘s side are well known for their relentless pressure, and that which made Real Madrid seem like a mid-table team during the 4-0 thrashing in the semi-final second leg, and finding an effective way to absorb it will be instrumental to give the Nerazzurri even the slightest chance to upset the odds in Istanbul.
With the Citizens likely to be aware of Inter’s confidence in their own play, Inzaghi should expect some specific moves from his counterpart in order to recover the ball high up the pitch, considering how vulnerable the Biscione look when they’re dispossessed during their build-up phase.
However, there’s something else Inter should’ve learnt from their tough fixture against Fiorentina – both Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku look in incredible form and a fearless approach aimed at leaving them one-on-one against Manchester City’s defenders would arguably be the best way to limit their opponents’ aggressiveness and give the Nerazzurri their own chances, since it is rather unrealistic to imagine Guardiola’s goal-machine jamming at the climax after having scored nine goals over four games against Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.