There are always a number of interesting sub-layers when AC Milan face off against their city rivals Inter, and today’s game is no different.
Inter are winless in four in the league with Milan’s 2-1 derby success last month sparking a downturn in Serie A form, while the Rossoneri dropped points against both Salernitana and Udinese to undermine their own title charge.
That means that the derby takes on an extra significance aside from the obvious fact it is a semi-final first leg, because the need for both teams to recover momentum is growing and the battles that will take across the pitch will determine it.
In the last derby it was Pierre Kalulu who was asked to keep Lautaro Martinez quiet and this time it will be Fikayo Tomori. The Englishman has arguably been Milan’s most reliable defender since joining last year but has not been his usual self since returning from minor knee surgery, while the Inter striker is desperately looking for goals after eight league games without one.
In Sandro Tonali’s absence due to suspension, Ismael Bennacer will be tasked with neutralising his former team-mate Hakan Calhanoglu who is in turn looking to recover some of the form that has seen him hit 6 goals and 8 assists in Serie A so far.
There will be a battle down Milan’s right side where either Alessandro Florenzi or Davide Calabria will have to silence the derby specialist Ivan Perisic, who has been involved in seven goals against Milan for Inter (two goals, five assists). Against no other side has he managed more in all competitions (also seven against Chievo and Fiorentina).
Then, there will be two more battles reignited from the last league game as Olivier Giroud will look to add to his brace against the Nerazzurri (and his three goals in the competition so far) by getting the better of Stefan De Vrij having spun him for the winner.
Finally, Theo Hernandez will renew hostilities with Denzel Dumfries after the pair clashed in the 2-1 win for Pioli’s men. The Frenchman saw red for chopping the Dutchman down in the last minute and tempers flared.