The five key battles that could win or lose the game for Milan against Inter

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan play Inter in the Derby della Madonnina at San Siro tonight hoping to put an end to a string of six games without a win.

The pressure is firmly on Stefano Pioli and his side with the season having gone from a renewed Scudetto charge after the win against Salernitana on January 4 to a battle just to get in the top four, with 18 goals conceded in seven games in 2023 so far.

The game tonight against Inter could see form go out of the window though and should be heavily influenced by some key player battles across the park, although some are guess work given the question marks over Milan’s line-up.

One man they will have to keep quiet is Lautaro Martínez, who has scored six goals against Milan in all competitions. Should he score again, he will become the second-highest foreign scorer in the history of this fixture for Inter, only behind Stefano Nyers (11). It is likely that Pierre Kalulu will be tasked with keeping him quiet, and the Frenchman needs to recover from some shaky personal form.

At the other end, Olivier Giroud has found the net in both his first two Serie A derbies against Inter (three goals total), and no Milan player has scored in their first three meetings against Inter in the competition in the three-points-per-win era. A battle against the veteran centre-back Francesco Acerbi awaits, with the Italian having kept him quiet in the Supercoppa just over a fortnight ago.

Moving into the midfield, the all-Italian battle between Nicolo Barella and Sandro Tonali should be as fascinating as other. They could have each been playing for the other team as some interesting market background revealed, but with Ismael Bennacer out injured all Tonali will be thinking about is how to ensure the back four are shielded better than they were in Saudi Arabia.

Speaking of that match in Riyadh last month, Davide Calabria will have to do a much better job of picking up Federico Dimarco‘s runs. The wing-back got the opening goal at the King Fahd Stadium with a ghosting run at the back post and is always a menacing presence, while Calabria will also have to try pin him back too when Milan have their moments.

Finally, we are going to presume that Rafael Leao gets the nod and will renew his battle with. Milan Skriniar. Both had futures up in the air going into the Supercoppa game, but now the Portuguese winger seems to have chosen to renew and Skriniar instead will head to PSG in the summer. Leao has not been at his best in recent weeks but will have fond memories of the brace he scored in the league derby win earlier in the season, while the Slovakian centre-back will recall shutting the former Lille man down in the Supercoppa.

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