Inter v Saint-Etienne Preview: Mazzarri's men look to maintain perfect start

The Nerazzurri have gone three games without a victory in Serie A but they boast a 100 per cent record in Europe and will be looking forward to the visit of the Ligue 1 side

Inter can all but ensure a place in the Europa League’s knockout stages with a win over Group F rivals Saint-Etienne on Thursday.

Walter Mazzarri’s second season in charge at San Siro has proved testing due to disappointing domestic defeats against Cagliari and Fiorentina, but they go into this week’s continental encounter in relatively buoyant mood and in a strong position to progress. 

Inter’s only regular source of comfort this campaign has been in Europe, where they lead the group by four points from Saint-Etienne after victories over Dnipro and Qarabag.

The Serie A side are the only team to score in the group so far and will be buoyed by the circumstances of Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Napoli at the Giuseppe Meazza.

A last-gasp Hernanes goal salvaged a point against Mazzarri’s former club, having seen Jose Callejon restore Napoli’s lead in the 90th minute.

The Brazilian midfielder declared afterwards that their “season begins from this moment” – a sentiment that Mazzarri will hope proves to be the case.

Inter are eight games unbeaten at home in Europe – a run that stretches back to a 2-0 defeat against Hajduk Split in the 2012-13 Europa League.

In contrast, Saint-Etienne have not won in three continental away fixtures, with Inter defender Juan Jesus urging the club’s fans to help make the difference.

“You saw a team with heart and fighting spirit [against Napoli],” he told Inter Channel.

“We have to keep up this level of hunger. Then the results come.

“When San Siro sings like that it really charges us up. I even got a bit emotional and it gave me chills. We need fans like that. They’re our 12th man. If they keep supporting us like that we’ll always play great matches.”

Christophe Galtier’s Saint-Etienne side have made an impressive start to their domestic campaign and sit in fifth after winning five of their 10 Ligue 1 games.

The French side got back to winning ways against Lorient at the weekend, following league defeats to Olympique de Marseille and Toulouse, but face an uphill task to break their run of back-to-back stalemates in the group against Inter.

Fredy Guarin will likely feature against one of his former clubs, although Mazzarri is without the quartet of Hugo Campagnaro (thigh), Danilo D’Ambrosio (knee), Yuto Nagatomo (calf) and Pablo Daniel Osvaldo (thigh) through injury.

Galtier has fitness concerns over Francois Clerc (ankle) and Mevlut Erdinc (hamstring), with Romain Hamouma (calf) and Loic Perrin (hamstring) both doubtful.

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