Inter and AC Milan will contest the first Derby della Madonnina of the new season on Saturday evening, and it is a game that certainly does not need over-selling.
Both Milanese sides have won each of their opening three games in Serie A so far in 2023-24, putting them ahead of the rest as the top two teams in the league as the only ones with perfect records, but that has to end for someone.
Stefano Pioli said in his pre-match press conference that he has banished the memories of the four derby defeats from earlier in 2023, instead focusing on what problems his side can cause their noisy neighbours.
Game date: Saturday, September 16
Kick-off time: 18:00 (CEST)
Venue: San Siro
Referee: Simone Sozza (VAR: Di Paolo)
It has not been an ideal period of preparation for Pioli ahead of the game, for a couple of different reasons. The first is that the international break saw over 10 of his first team squad leave to represent their countries, with some arriving back as late as Wednesday.
The second reason is injury related. Fikayo Tomori got a one-game ban for his red card against Roma and though Pierre Kalulu was expected to step into his place and Malick Thiaw, he picked up a thigh issue which should see him out for a couple of weeks.
That means Simon Kjaer – a centre-back option used sparingly by Pioli this calendar year – will partner Thiaw at the heart of defence in what is an unprecedented pairing, and they are trying to keep Lautaro Martinez and Marcus Thuram quiet who are both full of confidence.
Meanwhile, Olivier Giroud sustained a sprained ankle on France duty and returned to Italy early. He has shrugged off the problem and trained with the squad on Thursday and Friday, but cannot be at 100%.
The other players not available will be Mattia Caldara – who Pioli revealed will be out for a while with an ankle problem he picked up – and Ismael Bennacer.
According to the latest from Sky, the one change to the line-up from the first three games of the season will be at centre-back, with Kjaer coming in for Tomori as mentioned above.
Mike Maignan will retain his place in goal with Davide Calabria and Theo Hernandez as the right-back and left-back completing the four-man defence.
Rade Krunic will be at the base of the three-man midfield with Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Tijjani Reijnders being the right and left mezzali respectively.
Christian Pulisic was the last back from international duty but will get the nod on the right wing, with Rafael Leao on the other side and Olivier Giroud expected to shake off an ankle issue and start.
Probable Milan XI (4-3-3): Maignan; Calabria, Thiaw, Kjaer, Theo Hernandez; Loftus-Cheek, Krunic, Reijnders; Pulisic, Giroud, Leao.
For Inter, it was another summer where Beppe Marotta tried to improve Simone Inzaghi’s squad while achieving balanced books, or even attempting to get some profit to help their poor financial situation.
Andre Onana was the big sale as he went to Manchester United for around €52m, while Andrea Pinamonti went to Sassuolo, Marcelo Brozovic to Al Nassr and Robin Gosens to Union Berlin, helping raise funds.
That allowed some room for manoeuvre and some interesting signings arrived. Marcus Thuram snubbed Milan and joined on a free, Kristjan Asllani and Francesco Acerbi’s loans became permanent, and Davy Klaasen came on a free.
Davide Frattensi was the big splash as part of a loan with obligation to buy deal worth not far off €30m, a similar fee to what they paid Bayern for Benjamin Pavard.
Yann Sommer, Juan Cuadrado, Yann Bisseck, Marko Arnautovic and Alexis Sanchez were among the other additions made, out of 11 in total.
So far, the signs on the field have been good for Inzaghi’s men as they beat Monza 2-0 in the first game of the season, Cagliari 2-0 in the second and most recently Fiorentina 4-0. That means they have nine points from nine, with eight goals scored and zero conceded.
In terms of team news, it seems that Cuadrado and Sanchez have passed late fitness tests and are therefore available for the game, with no other injury issues to mention.
The Nerazzurri are continuing with the 3-5-2 that Simone Inzaghi has used consistently since his arrival, and they will also field the same line-up from their first three games too as per multiple sources.
Sommer will be in goal with Darmian, De Vrij and Bastoni the back three, Dumfries and Dimarco as wing-backs, Barella, Calhanoglu and Mkhitaryan as the three in midfield then Thuram and Lautaro up top.
Probable Inter XI (3-5-2): Sommer; Darmian, De Vrij, Bastoni; Dumfries, Barella, Calhanoglu, Mkhitaryan, Dimarco; Thuram, Lautaro.
Head to head
The only team that Milan have faced more in their history than Inter is Juventus. The red side of the city have emerged victorious in 71 of the 221 games, with the blue half winning 83 and with 67 draws in there.
Pioli’s men won the first derby of last season 3-2 as a brace from Rafael Leao either side of a Giroud goal sealed a memorable derby victory, but from there it would go downhill.
The Biscione have won all four derbies this year, including a 3-0 victory in the Supercoppa Italiana in Saudi Arabia, a 1-0 win in the return league fixture and then 2-0 and 1-0 wins in the two legs of the Champions League semi-finals.
➤ Inter have won the last four meetings with Milan without conceding a goal, across all competitions. The Nerazzurri have never achieved five consecutive wins in the Milan derby (four
times in 2020, 1974, and 1934). The four consecutive clean sheets already set a record for Inter in this fixture.
➤ Milan have won three of the last six Serie A derbies against Inter (D1 L2), as many wins as in the previous 19 league encounters against the Nerazzurri (D6, L10). However, Milan lost the most recent derby in the tournament (0-1 on February 5th).
➤ Milan are the team against which Inter have drawn the most games in Serie A (56), while Inter are the team that have beaten Milan the most in the top flight (68 wins). Inter are also the team that have scored the most goals against Milan in the competition (251).
➤ Inter have scored in the last 11 home matches against Milan, across all competitions. The Nerazzurri have never scored in 12 consecutive home derbies (11 times also between April 1993 and January 2000).
➤ Inter and Milan haven’t faced each other with equal points in Serie A since May 11, 2001 (a 6-0 win for Milan). Only once in Serie A history have they met with the same points and at the top of the table: on February 4, 1962 (a 2-0 win for Inter), and Fiorentina were also at the top in that case.
➤ Inter have won the first three matches of this season without conceding a goal. The Nerazzurri could achieve four victories in the first four Serie A matches for the eighth time and first time since 2019-20, and they could do it with four clean sheets for the first time in their history in the competition.
➤ Milan have won each of their first three games for the third time in the last four Serie A seasons, matching the number of times it happened in the previous 29 seasons. Milan could achieve four victories in the first four matches in the competition for the sixth time and the third time in the era of three points for a win (1995-96 and 2020-21 so far).
➤ Inter and Milan are the two teams that have scored the most goals in the first three rounds of this Serie A season (eight). In the last 10 seasons, Inter have scored at least eight goals five times at this stage of the tournament, while Milan have achieved this for the first time since 2014-15 this season.
➤ Lautaro Martínez has scored eight goals against Milan in all competitions. Only Giuseppe Meazza (12) and Stefano Nyers (11) have scored more goals in Inter’s history in the Milan derby.
➤ The Argentine forward has scored five goals in three matches this season, and among Inter players, only Antonio Angelillo in 1958 (11), Benito Lorenzi in 1950 (six), and Bruno Quaresima in 1947 (seven) have done better after four matches of the season for their team.
➤ Before Olivier Giroud, the last player to have scored at least four goals in the first three games of a single season for Milan in Serie A was Andriy Shevchenko in 2001-02. The Frenchman could
become the first Milan player to score in all the first four matches played by the team since Oliver Bierhoff in 1998-99.
Ones to watch
As aforementioned, Leao and Giroud are the two players who above all stand out as being derby contributors for Milan, given both have score match-winning braces in the past couple of seasons. However, Milan will need a spread attacking threat from Pulisic’s quality and the runs from midfield.
It is definitely the centre of defence that will be the main focus though, with Thiaw and Kjaer – starting their first game together as a pairing – forced to stay disciplined against Lautaro and Thuram. Krunic’s role at the base of the midfield for the first time in a derby will also be intriguing.
For Inter, the threats are known. Lautaro has five goals in three games already this season and looks to have struck up some good chemistry with Thuram already, who got off the mark against Fiorentina.
Where they have hurt Milan before is with the midfield runs of Barella and in particular Mkhitaryan, but also by exploiting Dimarco as the spare man with his late deep runs on the left. Darmian versus Leao will also be a fantastic battle.
Make no mistake about it, this is Milan’s toughest test yet and it precedes a very important Champions League game. The squad are not in the best health and a pretty big change at centre-back was not what the doctor ordered, but the Rossoneri have new weapons and new ways to hopefully hurt this Inter side.
Inter 2-2 Milan