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

By Oliver Fisher -

It simply doesn’t get much bigger than this. AC Milan and Inter will face each other in the knockout stages of the Champions League for the third time in their histories, and for the first time in 18 years.

Six days will determine whether the red or the blue half of the city will be booking their plane tickets for the final in Istanbul next month, with Milan the designated home side tonight and the return fixture next Tuesday.

There will be some decisive battles across the pitch, starting with the one between Sandro Tonali and Nicolo Barella in midfield. The two Italy internationals are often the pace-setters for their sides: Tonali in terms of the intensity and aggression, while his opposite number tends to chip in more creatively and with goal contributions. It will be a fascinating contest that could heavily influence the tie.

Lautaro Martínez has scored seven goals in 12 career appearances against Milan, which is why Fikayo Tomori will have to be at his best to stop him. The Argentine got the better of the centre-back in the Supercoppa final for the third goal, and he also netted in the 1-0 league win that came not long after.

At the other end, there will be the battle of two veterans as Olivier Giroud faces Francesco Acerbi. Both are now well into the 30s yet this is still one of the biggest nights of their career, with the Frenchman hoping to add another important derby goal to his tally given he has three already.

It seems as though Hakan Calhanoglu is likely to get the nod over Marcelo Brozovic to start at the base of Inter’s midfield. This creates enough sub-plots in itself given his history with the Rossoneri, but Ismael Bennacer in a more advanced role will be tasked with limiting his ability to dictate the tempo and feed the forwards on the counter.

Finally, the battle on Milan’s right side is also worth mentioning. Davide Calabria and Federico Dimarco grew up as fans of Milan and Inter respectively so this will mean a little more to them, while they are also team-mates with Italy. The latter has had a knack for important goals such as the Supercoppa plus recent wins over Juventus and Roma, so Calabria will have to watch his late runs very closely.

Tags AC Milan Milan Inter
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