AC Milan and Inter will renew hostilities in the first Derby della Madonnina meeting of the season at San Siro on Saturday night.
The derby between the red and blue side of Milano is always a fascinating spectacle, but it carries a bit more meaning at the moment given how the two sides have risen from being sleeping giants to competing for trophies again.
The Nerazzurri were celebrating their Scudetto win in 2020-21 before the Rossoneri took it from them last season to move onto 19 league titles each, but Stefano Pioli claimed in his pre-match press conference that what has gone before does not matter.
Game date: Saturday, 3 September
Kick-off time: 18:00 (CEST)
Venue: San Siro
Referee: Chiffi (VAR: Di Paolo)
Pioli decided to make numerous changes for the midweek game against Sassuolo as the likes of Alessandro Florenzi, Simon Kjaer, Tommaso Pobega, Alexis Saelemaekers and Brahim Diaz came in, but they were unable to get the win and dropped points for the second straight away game.
Moreover, Florenzi suffered a bad muscle injury that required Milan to dip into the market on deadline day to sign Sergino Dest to replace him. He could make a debut along with the other new arrivals Malick Thiaw and Aster Vranckx.
In terms of injuries aside from Florenzi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic will obviously miss out as his long-term recovery continues. Ante Rebic is still suffering from back pain and will miss out, while it seems Divock Origi is back to fitness and could feature.
According to various reports, Pioli will revert to his ‘first choice’ defence of Davide Calabria, Pierre Kalulu, Fikayo Tomori and Theo Hernandez in front of goalkeeper Mike Maignan, fresh from his penalty heroics against Sassuolo.
Sandro Tonali and Ismael Bennacer should be reunited as the double pivot with Tommaso Pobega dropping to the bench, and Charles De Ketelaere tipped to regain his starting spot from Brahim Diaz as the playmaker.
Junior Messias has a 55% chance of starting on the right wing (Saelemaekers 45%), with Rafael Leao on the left flank and Olivier Giroud up front, with the Frenchman of course having scored a match-winning brace in the last league derby.
Probable Milan XI (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Calabria, Kalulu, Tomori, Theo; Bennacer, Tonali; Messias (Saelemaekers), De Ketelaere, Leao; Giroud.
Inter have started the season with three wins and a loss so far, with the victories coming against Lecce, Spezia and Cremonese and the defeat coming at the Stadio Olimpico against Lazio in their first real big test of 2022-23.
The good news for fans of the Nerazzurri though is that they did not lose any key pieces close to the transfer deadline, with PSG’s interest in Milan Skriniar ultimately rebuffed and Ivan Perisic being the main exit.
Inter head coach Simone Inzaghi has admitted that the main selection doubt he has going into the game is whether centre-back Alessandro Bastoni can come back into the back three at the expense of Federico Dimarco, given the former struggled with flu.
It is a very familiar looking line-up that should take to the field as per most reports, with veteran goalkeeper Samir Handanovic having Skriniar, Stefan De Vrij and Dimarco ahead of him, with Denzel Dumfries and Matteo Darmian the wing-backs.
The midfield trio of Nicolo Barella, Marcelo Brozovic and Hakan Calhanoglu should be kept together, while there is no Romelu Lukaku due to injury meaning it is a question of whether Joaquin Correa or Edin Dzeko partners Lautaro Martinez up front.
Probable Inter XI (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, De Vrij, Dimarco; Dumfries, Barella, Brozovic, Calhanoglu, Darmian; Martinez, Dzeko.
Head to head
Milan and Inter met four times last season with two of them being in Serie A and the other two games being in the Coppa Italia semi-finals.
There were two draws: namely the 1-1 in the first league game and 0-0 in the first leg of the cup (Inter won the second leg 3-0), and then the Rossoneri won the return league derby 2-1 thanks to Giroud’s brace in the second half.
That result ended up being a huge momentum shift in the Scudetto race as it cut the gap at the top to one point when it could have been seven, and Pioli’s men would seize the boost it gave them to go on and win the title.
It has been over five years since Milan won a home derby in Serie A though, that being back in the 2015-16 season when Alex, Carlos Bacca and M’Baye Niang scored in a 3-0 rout.
➤ Following their 2-1 victory after trailing against Inter last February, courtesy of an Olivier Giroud brace (2-1), AC Milan are looking to win consecutive games against Inter for the first time since 2011 (their first two league Derbies played under Massimiliano Allegri).
➤ Milan have failed to score in each of their last two games against Inter in all competitions, in the Coppa Italia semi-final ties in March-April 2022, and could go three consecutive Derbies without scoring for the first time since 1980, when the Rossoneri lost three matches in a row against their rivals between Serie A and Coppa Italia under Massimo Giacomini.
➤ Milan last won, as the designated hosting side, against Inter in Serie A back in January 2016, under Sinisa Mihajlovic (3-0, courtesy of Alex, Bacca and Niang goals); Inter have won three games and drawn three more against Rossoneri since then.
➤ Milan have won five consecutive home games in Serie A and could win six such matches in a row for the first time since August 2014, under Clarence Seedorf and Filippo Inzaghi.
➤ Inter are the only team (excluding relegated and newly promoted sies) not to draw a Serie A match since last April: they have 11 wins (at least three more than any other side) and two losses in the period.
➤ Milan have kept a clean sheet in their last two Serie A matches, and could do so in three of their first five top-flight seasonal games in three campaigns in a row for the third time in their
history (after 1952/53, 1953/54,1954/55 and 1978/79, 1979/80 and 1981/82).
➤ Simone Inzaghi has only won one point in his first two Derbies in Serie A since joining the Nerazzurri; the last Inter coach to not win any of his first three matches against Milan in the top-flight was Osvaldo Bagnoli, in 1993 (D2 L1).
➤ The next will be Rafael Leão’s 100th match in Serie A – among players born since 1999, Leão has provided the most assists (16) in the competition, and he is third considering only goals: 24,
behind only Vlahovic (55) and Pinamonti (25).
➤ Milan are Joaquín Correa’s favourite target in Serie A (four goals); the Inter striker has scored four goals in his last five appearances in the competition, after having gone goalless in each of the previous 18.
➤ Lautaro Martínez has been involved in a goal in each of his first four league appearances so far (three goals, one assist); only Zlatan Ibrahimovic (2007/08) and Nicolò Barella (2021/22) have had a hand in a goal in their first five Serie A seasonal appearances for Inter since 2004/05 (since Opta started collecting assists).
Ones to watch
Milan really struggled to create chances last time out and a lot of responsibility will thus be on De Ketelaere’s shoulders. He showed his class against Bologna and the Rossoneri need him to shine again, especially considering the high standard of Inter’s defence.
The other player to keep an eye on is Giroud, also known as the Inter killer these days. He played 90 minutes against Bologna and a good chunk last time out, meaning he might suffer from some fatigue. Hopefully, the training has been changed slightly during the week to address this.
As for Inter, since Lukaku will miss the clash, thoughts shift to Martinez. He hasn’t always been successful in the derby (missed penalty last season), but we also know how dangerous he can be on a good day.
In addition to him, Barella will have to be kept under close observation. Brozovic has often been mentioned as the key for Inter against Milan, but the feeling is that Barella has been even more important for them in recent years. At the very least, he’s one of their best players and must be monitored.
It will be a tough game for both sides, at least on paper, and the feeling is that it could be another draw in the Rossoneri’s designated home game. There’s no doubt that both Milan and Inter will push for the win, but a draw is the most likely outcome.
AC Milan 1-1 Inter