Inter Milan vs. Udinese, Preview: Win or bust for Zebrette's European ambitions

Gabriele Maltinti

Udinese go into the final match of the season knowing that a victory will guarantee their place in Europe for a third consecutive season

After setting a new club record by winning their previous seven consecutive matches, Udinese stand on the brink of Europe, an eighth against lowly Internazionale will secure their place in next season's UEFA Europa League. It has been a remarkable end to the season from a side that have spent most of the season flattering to deceive in mid table but the evergreen Antonio Di Natale and the late-season form of young Colombian Luis Muriel have seen Francesco Guidolin's side climb the table and into contention.

It is likely a victory will be required as the Friuliani sit two points above Lazio, themselves on a run of three consecutive victories. They take on mid-table Cagliari on the final day, a side who appear to already be on their summer holidays without a win in their last five, so on form the most likely outcome will be a Lazio victory in Trieste.

So what of Inter's season? After looking like they were putting together a pretty serious title challenge in the Autumn, ending Juventus' unbeaten run in Serie A with a stunning victory in Turin in November, their season really fell apart, beginning with a loss of form in January followed by one of the worst injury crises ever seen in Serie A, with no less than 14 first-team players in their overcrowded treatment room, including inspirational captain Javier Zanetti, a man who had previously missed just eight matches since 2007.

The upshot of this is that they have fallen down the table, and rapidly. Firstly out of title contention, then out of Champions League contention, then out of European contention and now they sit ninth, on the brink of their worst finish in Serie A since 1994 when they came in a lowly 13th. A victory here coupled with a draw or loss for Catania away to Torino would see them equal 1999's eighth place finish but it's still a stark fall from grace for a team that won a dominant treble under Jose Mourinho just three seasons ago.

Inter's injury problems are well-documented but a small ray of sunshine may be the possible return of Rodrigo Palacio, whilst Andrea Ranocchia may be required to soldier on through the pain barrier as he has done for much of the second half of the season. Antonio Di Natale sustained an injury in Udinese' s victory over Atalanta last week so his participation is a doubt whilst a number of others will be touch-and-go as to whether they will be able to make it.

Inter injuries and suspensions

Out: Antonio Cassano, Jonathan, Matias Silvestre, Javier Zanetti, Walter Samuel, Walter Gargano, Ibrahima M'baye, Dejan Stankovic, Diego Milito, Joel Obi, Gaby Mudingayi, Luca Castellazzi (injured). In doubt: Andrea Ranocchia, Cristian Chivu, Rodrigo Palacio.

Udinese injuries and suspensions

Out: Andrea Lazzari. In doubt: Gabriele Angella, Dusan Basta, Marco Faraoni, Maicosuel, Antonio Di Natale, Luis Muriel.

Match date/time: Sunday 19 May 2013, 8:45pm local, 2:45pm E.T.

Venue: Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan

TV: Sky Calcio 4 (Italy), beIN Sport Play (USA)

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