Why Celtic couldn't have chosen a better time to draw Inter

Inter Milan

Drawing Inter Milan would usually be pretty daunting, but at the moment the Nerazzurri are in chaos and a scalp for the taking.

Ever heard of Sassuolo? For many British football fans, the answer is no, but the tiny club from a sleepy town in Emilia-Romagna are currently above Inter in the Serie A table.

Granted, Sassuolo are flying higher than expected, but Inter are joint 12th and experiencing the kind of slump only an AC Milan or Juventus fan could have dreamed of the last time Roberto Mancini was in charge.

Mancini delivered back-to-back Italian titles in 2007 and 2008, Jose Mourinho then secured two more in 2009 and 2010 and better still the Champions League - after a recent history dogged by underachievement, Inter were top dogs once more.

But Inter have slowly run out of steam and are now threatening free fall. Under Walter Mazzarri, Inter underachieved badly, but their squad also steadily became less star-studded.

Last season, Inter could only finish fifth and were made to look pedestrian by a resurgent Napoli and Roma. New owner Erick Thohir came in and put his faith in Mazzarri to turn things around. That proved to be misplaced as Inter started this season even worse.

Thohir eventually wielded the axe and brought back Mancini, but his rebuilding task is mammoth and it hasn't started as he would have liked with losses against Roma and Udinese.

Inter are frighteningly short of the kind of quality their fans have taken for granted for years. The most striking dearth is in attack where Southampton exile Pablo Daniel Osvaldo was greeted as a saviour when signing in the summer. He started brightly but then got injured and remains sidelined.

While eight-goal Mauro Icardi is clearly a threat and could one day be a great striker, he is having to shoulder too great a burden in Osvaldo's absence and Rodrigo Palacio remains unconvincing.

In 17 Serie A games, Inter have scored 21 and conceded 21, but that total is somewhat skewed by the fact they netted seven against (funnily enough) Sassuolo. 

Arguably the most worrying Inter trait, or most encouraging for Celtic fans, is their mental frailty. The Nerazzurri regularly impress in one half, only to fall apart in the other. Very quickly once the momentum turns against them, Inter seem to lose belief and capitulate.

Such is the defensive disarray at Inter that Nemanja Vidic, a much hyped free agent swoop of the summer, has looked all at sea, almost unrecognisable from the man Manchester United fans knew. Initially he struggled to play in a three-man defence, now Mancini has arrived and moved towards a four-man back-line, but Vidic isn't part of it. 

Mancini is yet to make his mark at Inter and is under pressure to beat Chievo this evening. The positivity surrounding his arrival has ebbed away after two league defeats and the mood at Inter is funereal.

Celtic could hardly have asked for a better chance to take a prestigious scalp. Overly dependent on one man going forward, disorganised at the back, mentally fragile and getting booed by their fans, Inter are not the threat many Bhoys fans will be expecting.

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