Preview: Serie A Round 23 – Inter vs. AC Milan

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan will be looking to continue their positive momentum so far in 2020, but will do so when they face their toughest opponent thus far this year in Sunday’s Derby della Madonnina.

The Rossoneri will be looking to secure their first league win over Inter in four years and put a huge dent in the Scudetto hopes of their neighbours, who have struggled for form since the turn of the year.

Milan, on the other hand, have had an upturn which has essentially coincided with the arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the beginning of January, having not lost a competitive game yet in 2020.

However, the 19 points gap between the two teams is a daunting one, and with Inter being the ‘home’ team many are tipping them as favourites.


Game date: Sunday 9 February
Kick-off time: 20:45 (CET)
Venue: San Siro
Referee: Fabio Maresca


TEAM NEWS

Stefano Pioli is set to welcome back a number of players who were unavailable during last weekend’s game against Hellas Verona.

The Milan boss had a number of different selection issues to contend with in Sunday’s 1-1 draw as Conti, Simon Kjaer, Ismael Bennacer and Rade Krunic all missed out.

Perhaps the most notable absentee though was Zlatan Ibrahimovic, as the forward pairing of Rafael Leao and Ante Rebic looked toothless as Milan relied on a deflected free-kick to earn a hard-fought point.

However, reports have suggested that all the aforementioned quintet will be available for the derby with the exception of Krunic, who may still recover but at the moment there is a lack of information regarding the Bosnian midfielder.

The latest from Sky Italia is suggesting that Pioli may use a 4-4-1-1 formation in order to provide greater midfield cover, with Giacomo Bonaventura on the left and Calhanoglu in behind Ibrahimovic.

From a tactical standpoint, this would allow the Rossoneri to defend in a 4-5-1 out of possession, which gives more assurances.

Probable Milan XI (4-4-1-1): Donnarumma; Conti, Musacchio, Romagnoli, Theo; Castillejo, Kessie, Bennacer, Bonaventura; Calhanoglu; Ibrahimovic.

THE OPPONENTS

While Pioli is welcoming back a number of names, the opposite is the case for his opposite number Antonio Conte.

The Nerazzurri are sitting in a healthy position just three points off leaders Juventus, and the January additions of Christian Eriksen, Ashley Young and Victor Moses have given the former Chelsea boss some much-needed depth.

Marcelo Brozovic will return and provide a boost for their midfield, but Lautaro Martinez is serving the second of a two-game ban, while centre-back Alessandro Bastoni and second choice goalkeeper Tommaso Berni are also out through suspension.

Samir Handanovic has suffered a hairline fracture to the little finger on his left hand meaning he is a doubt for the game, though Daniele Padelli did a good job when he stepped in for Inter’s recent 2-0 win away to Udinese, his first Serie A match since August 2016.

Meanwhile, Diego Godin is expected to replace Bastoni, but Borja Valero and Roberto Gagliardini are also injury doubts, with reports suggesting Alexis Sanchez will partner Romelu Lukaku up front.

Probable Inter XI (3-4-2-1): ​Padelli; Godin, De Vrij, Skriniar; Candreva, Barella, Brozovic, Eriksen, Young; Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez.

HEAD TO HEAD

As mentioned previously, Inter have had the rub of the green recently in this particular game as they shoot for their fourth derby win in a row in Serie A.

The Biscione have also won 17 of the last 33 meetings between the two clubs with the Diavolo having triumphed in only 10 – their last Serie A victory being the 3-0 win back in January 2016, and the last win in all competitions being in the quarter-finals of the 2017-18 Coppa Italia when Patrick Cutrone netted the winner.

The two sides played out a thriller last season as Inter beat Milan 3-2 back in March. Matias Vecino and Stefan De Vrij had put Conte’s side in control before Tiemoue Bakayoko’s header halved the deficit. Lautaro Martinez made it 3-1 from the penalty spot but Mateo Musacchio’s close-range finish set up a nervy last 20 minutes, but Inter hung on.

This season Inter came out on top too, with Marcelo Brozovic and Lukaku netting the decisive second-half goals in a 2-0 win.

Match facts

  • Antonio Conte has never lost to Milan as a coach, emerging with seven victories and three draws. He is also unbeaten against Stefano Pioli, with four wins from seven encounters.
  • Inter are undefeated in their last 15 matches (Serie A).
  • Milan are undefeated in 9 of their last 10 matches (Serie A).
  • Inter have won their last 3 matches against Milan in all competitions.

ONES TO WATCH

For Milan, the obvious answer would be Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who will be looking to prove that he still has what it takes to make headlines on the biggest stage against his former club at 38 years of age.

However, the danger could well come from Theo Hernandez. Expect the Rossoneri to try and counter-attack plenty in this game and exploit the spaces in behind the wing backs and the lack of speed that Godin has. Who better to do that than the lightning quick Frenchman, who has five goals already this term.

For Inter, again it would be straightforward to highlight Lukaku as the danger man – which he is. The Belgian has netted 18 times in the league at an average of 127 minutes per goal, so Romagnoli and Musacchio (or Kjaer) will have to maintain incredible concentration.

Where this game may well be won – as was the case back in September – is in the midfield. For that reason, it is imperative that Bennacer and Kessie give Barella, Brozovic and Eriksen as little time and space on the ball as possible.

PREDICTION

Inter are coming into the game with selection problems, players not yet in rhythm (Eriksen, Sanchez) and some notable absentees, plus stuttering form as of late.

This also feels a bit like a free shot for a Milan side expected to lose the game, so we are hoping for an entertaining game and for Pioli’s side to avoid defeat. An Ibrahimovic goal would be a welcome bonus.

Prediction: Inter 2-2 Milan

Tags AC Milan Milan Inter