The 224th Derby della Madonnina will be the marquee fixture in Europe this week as AC Milan and Inter Milan renew their rivalry at San Siro on Saturday.

There are quite a few mouthwatering fixtures on offer in Europe this weekend. But, the one that fans of Italian football will be waiting for with bated breath will see AC Milan lock horns with local rivals Inter Milan at San Siro, in what will be the 224th Derby della Madonnina.

It has been a mixed start to the season for AC Milan, who were beaten in their opening Serie A game by Udinese before back-to-back 1-0 wins put them back on track. The positive though, is that the Rossoneri seem to be boasting one of the meanest defence in the Italian top-flight, something that should stand them in good stead against Inter Milan.

Speaking of Inter Milan, the Nerazzurri have made a breezy start to life under Antonio Conte and are the only side in Serie A still with a perfect record after the first three games. But, a 1-1 draw at home against Slavia Praha in the UEFA Champions League has sapped some of the momentum for the league leaders.

The corresponding fixture last season was an intense affair, with Inter Milan edging AC Milan out by the odd goal in a 3-2 win, with Lautaro Martinez netting the winner. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the Serie A encounter.

Team News & Tactics

AC Milan

AC Milan have bounced back decently from their opening day defeat at Udinese. (Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images)

AC Milan have bounced back decently from their opening day defeat at Udinese. (Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images)

Defence is the only area which is affected by injury and suspension. While Mattia Caldara is a long-term absentee for AC Milan due to his cruciate ligament rupture, Davide Calabria will be unavailable for the game against Inter Milan after being sent off against Hellas Verona last weekend.

Calabria’s absence will force Marco Giampaolo into a change, with Andrea Conti coming into the side. Conti will start on the right side of the AC Milan defence, with Ricardo Rodriguez keeping his place on the opposite flank. There is no looking past Mateo Musacchio and Alessio Romagnoli in the central defensive partnership, while Gianluigi Donnarumma will take his place in goal.

Up ahead in midfield, Giampaolo has the riches at his disposal to pick the three-man unit. But, it is unlikely that the AC Milan boss will make any changes to the trio that started against Hellas Verona when they face Inter Milan. Lucas Biglia impressed in the Anchor Man role, and the Argentine should keep Ismael Bennacer out of the team once again.

Franck Kessie is a certain starter, with the Ivorian a key presence in the middle of the park with his tenacity. Hakan Calhanoglu will complete the midfield trifecta, with the Turkish playmaker providing the creativity from the middle of the park.

Meanwhile, Giampaolo should prefer a traditional 4-3-3 formation as he continues to search for the right system for his team, having ditched his preferred 4-3-1-2 formation. The three-man attacking unit should feature Suso, Krzysztof Piatek and Ante Rebic, with Rebic set to make his full debut for AC Milan after appearing from the bench last time out.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Conti, Musacchio, Romagnoli, Rodriguez; Kessie, Biglia, Calhanoglu; Suso, Piatek, Rebic

AC Milan

Inter Milan

Antonio Conte has just one injury concern to deal with ahead of the derby against AC Milan. The Inter Milan manager is sweating over the fitness of Antonio Candreva, who hobbled off against Slavia Praha in the midweek European fixture.

With games coming thick and fast in September, it is likely that Conte will not take a chance with a player who he seems to consider a pivotal member of his squad. As a result, Valentino Lazaro will get the chance to impress the Inter Milan boss in what will be his debut for the Nerazzurri. And, what better occasion to turn out for the first time for Inter than against AC Milan.

Lazaro will be the right wing-back in Conte’s 3-4-2-1 system, with Kwadwo Asamoah continuing to keep Cristiano Biraghi out on the opposite flank. The central midfield partnership should see the return of Nicolo Barella, after the Italian international rescued a point for Inter Milan in the UEFA Champions League.

Barella will partner Marcelo Brozovic, who was reportedly involved in a scuffle with Romelu Lukaku on Tuesday, in the middle of the park. The creativity in the side will come from Stefano Sensi, who has quickly settled into his new surroundings.

Sensi will be one of the two attacking midfielders playing off the central striker, with Matteo Politano likely to be his creative partner, meaning Alexis Sanchez continues to wait for his full Inter Milan debut. Romelu Lukaku should lead the line against AC Milan, with Lautaro Martinez being the backup option on the bench.

At the back, Danilo D’Ambrosio should make way for Diego Godin, who continues to be eased into the first-team setup. Godin will accompany Stefan de Vrij and Milan Skriniar in the back-three with Inter Milan captain Samir Handanovic lining up between the sticks.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Handanovic; Godin, de Vrij, Skriniar; Lazaro, Barella, Brozovic, Asamoah; Politano, Sensi; Lukaku

Inter Milan

Key Stats

  • Inter Milan are unbeaten in the last six Milan derbies in Serie A (W3, D3). The last time the Nerazzurri went on a longer run without being beaten by AC Milan in the Italian top-flight was back in September 1999 (a run of 10).
  • AC Milan have won each of their last four games at home, while conceding only one goal in the process. The last time they won five consecutive Serie A fixtures at home was back in August 2014.
  • AC Milan and Inter Milan boast the meanest defence in Serie A this season, having conceded just one goal each so far. The two Milan sides have also conceded the fewest shots on target: AC Milan (eight), Inter Milan (nine, level with Bologna and Verona).
  • Marco Giampaolo and Antonio Conte will face each other as managers for the first time in Serie A. Both managers are unbeaten in their citizen derbies in the competition: Conte won all four games in-charge of Juventus against Torino; Giampaolo was unbeaten in six Genovese derbies with Sampdoria (W4 D2).
  • AC Milan have kept a clean sheet in 7 of their last 10 home games in Serie A.

Player to Watch

Romelu Lukaku

Will Lukaku rise to the occasion? (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

Will Lukaku rise to the occasion? (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

Lukaku has started life as an Inter Milan player in strong fashion, having netted two goals in three Serie A games so far. But, the game against AC Milan offers the Belgian striker to set the record straight, having often struggled to impose himself against the stronger teams.

With AC Milan boasting one of the best defensive units in Serie A, the Inter Milan attack will need to be at its clinical best, meaning Lukaku will be asked to convert from the few chances that do come his way on the night. A big game for Lukaku to stamp his authority at his new club.

Prediction

AC Milan 0-1 Inter Milan

As the two most frugal defensive units go head-to-head in the Derby della Madonnina, one can expect a tense and tight affair. Neither Inter Milan nor AC Milan have proven to be too consistently threatening in front of goal either in the early stages of the season, meaning there is unlikely to be a lot of goalmouth action on offer.

But, as things stand, the Nerazzurri hold the slightest of edges, which combined with AC Milan’s recent struggles against their local rivals should all lead to a win for the Serie A leader.

With Juventus playing earlier in the day, Inter Milan have to match or better the champions’ efforts and we reckon they will do just that. The Hard Tackle predicts a 1-0 win for Antonio Conte & co. in a match that will have very little margins for error.

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