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Lega Serie A Matchweek 29 preview: Inter Milan vs. Cagliari (Sun - 12:30h. CET; 11:30h. BST) - Team news, possible lineups

After a 10th consecutive Serie A victory in midweek, champions-elect Inter Milan welcome struggling Cagliari to San Siro on Sunday, within touching distance of their first Scudetto for a decade.

The visitors, meanwhile, have lost their last three matches and remain embroiled in the fight against relegation, with games starting to run out.

Match preview

Inter moved one step closer to ending a nine-year monopoly of the title by Juventus on Wednesday evening, beating mid-table Sassuolo to move 11 points clear at the top of the table.

Top scorer Romelu Lukaku headed home the opener for Antonio Conte's side before the Belgian's strike partner Lautaro Martinez scored a second on the counter in the Nerazzurri's 2-1 win.

Lukaku has netted crucial goals in both of their last two matches, while improving his tally to 21 goals this season - four adrift of Juve's Cristiano Ronaldo at the summit of the Capocannoniere standings. Martinez, meanwhile, now has 15 and an assist in midweek was his fifth of the campaign, as the pair have dovetailed superbly in their side's march to towards the championship.

So far, Conte's men have racked up 68 goals, at a blistering average of 2.34 per game, while conceding fewer than one per match at the other end.

Continuing at that rate, not only could Inter secure the Scudetto with weeks to spare, but also better their remarkable record of 17 straight wins in the top flight set back in 2007. Having gone unbeaten in Serie A since early January, the Nerazzurri now have nine fixtures remaining and have already won 10 on the spin.

They have also emerged victorious in 12 of their 14 home games in the league, with 11 straight San Siro successes currently representing their fourth-best winning run at home in their history.

Furthermore, this week's opponents Cagliari have won only two of their last 19 away encounters with Inter and the last time the Milan giants failed to score against the Sardinians at the Meazza dates back to March 1992 - since then, the Nerazzurri have rattled in 47 goals from 22 matches versus the islanders.

Having been beneficiaries of the 'new manager effect', Cagliari enjoyed a promising upturn when current boss Leonardo Semplici took over from an increasingly desperate Eusebio Di Francesco in February, but that initial change in fortunes seems to have dissipated of late, courtesy of three consecutive defeats.

Following their costly setback against relegation rivals Spezia before the international break, the pressure on the recently-appointed coach grew more intense last weekend, as the Isolani fell to a 2-0 defeat to Verona despite firing in 24 shots at goal - though only five found the target.

Again, the nature of the loss highlighted Cagliari's over-reliance on top scorer Joao Pedro (with 13 goals) who has not found the target in each of their successive setbacks. In fact, they have scored the fewest Serie A goals of any side since the beginning of 2021 - just 10 in 15 outings this calendar year.

Now two points behind 17th-placed Torino heading into the weekend, with the Turin club still holding a game in hand, former SPAL manager Semplici will be concerned that having taken seven points from his opening five games in charge, his team are without a win in four.

Certainly, the portents are not promising for this Sunday's early kickoff, as away from the Sardegna Arena, Cagliari have claimed a meagre 10 points from 14 games and the club have kept a clean sheet against Inter just once in their last 37 league meetings.

Inter midfield mainstay Nicolo Barella will miss out against his hometown club due to a suspension for accumulation of bookings, but engine room colleague Marcelo Brozovic returns from his own ban to take a spot alongside Christian Eriksen and Roberto Gagliardini in Antonio Conte's 3-5-2.

First-choice centre-back Alessandro Bastoni was also suspended in midweek, but will most likely come in for Matteo Darmian at the back. Versatile defender Danilo D'Ambrosio is also able to return after suffering the effects of COVID-19, but Ivan Perisic and Aleksandar Kolarov remain doubtful due to muscle fatigue.

If Perisic is not ready to start, Ashley Young will continue on the left, having served up an assist against Sassuolo following a spell out of the team.

Cagliari goalkeeper Alessio Cragno was among several Italy internationals who tested positive for COVID-19 upon their return from the World Cup Qualifying camp, so should be replaced by Simone Aresti between the visitors' posts.

Energetic midfielder Nahitan Nandez's participation is in doubt due to a bruised thigh, as former Inter man Radja Nainggolan anchors the Isolani's central three, but Alessandro Tripaldelli is expected back after overcoming a muscle problem.

Luca Ceppitelli could contend for a place in the back three if passed fit, but winger Riccardo Sottil has been plagued by a thigh strain and may miss out once again. Meanwhile, up front, any one of Alberto Cerri - who started against Verona - Leonardo Pavoletti or Giovanni Simeone could partner captain Joao Pedro.

Inter Milan possible starting lineup:
Handanovic; Skriniar, De Vrij, Bastoni; Hakimi, Gagliardini, Brozovic, Eriksen, Young; Martinez, Lukaku.

Cagliari possible starting lineup:
Aresti; Klavan, Godin, Rugani; Zappa, Marin, Nainggolan, Duncan, Lykogiannis; Simeone, Pedro.

Source: Sports Mole / Jonathan O'Shea