Inter Milan will be eager to continue their winning streak and hold the top spot in the Serie A when they take on Atalanta at the San Siro on Saturday evening.

Serie A returns with matchday 19 action as Inter Milan host fifth-placed Atalanta at the San Siro on Saturday, looking to strengthen their hold at the top of the table.

Antonio Conte’s side are currently occupying the pole position in Serie A and after their superb win against Napoli, the Nerazzurri are ready to continue that form against the high-flying Atalanta side. Inter desperately need to keep the winning momentum otherwise they may allow Juventus to leapfrog them in the points table with both teams being tied on same points at the top.

Meanwhile, Atalanta have been in great form lately as they ended the year with a thumping 5-0 win over AC Milan and also started this new year with the same scoreline against Parma. Gian Piero Gasperini has transformed this Atalanta side into a formidable unit as they also qualified for the Round of 16 in the Champions League unexpectedly this season on their first appearance in the competition.

With Inter Milan looking to keep their top spot intact and Atalanta looking to push for a Champions League spot this week, it is is going to be a very feisty affair among both the sides. And the Hard Tackle will run the rule over both sides ahead of this epic Serie A clash.

Tactics and Team News

Inter Milan

Antonio Conte had several headaches with selection mainly due to injuries but now with the treatment room getting empty, it is suspensions which are taking a toll on the former Chelsea manager. Defender Milan Skriniar and midfielder Nicolo Barella are suspended for this important clash forcing Conte to bring a change in his plans.

Right-back Antonio D’Ambrosio is also injured and therefore Conte will have to contain with Antonio Candreva as the right wing-back. Candreva is more of an aggressor and his defensive qualities are not as sound as D’Ambrosio but Conte will have to stay with the experienced former Lazio man.

The Nerazzurri will once again opt for a three-man defence with Samir Handanovic being the mainstay over the years under the bar for Inter. Young defender Alessandro Bastoni is likely to keep his place in the starting eleven as experienced campaigner Diego Godin returns to the backline in the absence of Milan Skriniar, while Stefan De Vrij completes the back three.

Cristiano Biraghi is likely to keep their place as the left wing-back providing width to the overall play. In midfield, three players will look to control the tempo of the game, mainly Marcelo Brozovic and Matias Vecino, while Roberto Gagliardini will partner them in the middle of the park to add more stability.

Inter Milan’s strength this season has to be their attack mainly with Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku both in red hot streak and hunting in pairs. They will look to continue this form against Atalanta.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Handanovic; De Vrij, Godin, Bastoni; Candreva, Vecino, Brozovic, Gagliardini, Biraghi; Lukaku, Martinez

 Inter Milan

Atalanta

It is mostly good news for Gian Piero Gasperini as the side from Bergamo has no absentees for this crucial clash against Inter Milan. Atalanta are in great goalscoring form and Gasperini will want to keep that habit intact in the team as the Italian may run through a few changes as now Duvan Zapata is back in action and is ready to push for a place in the first eleven.

Atalanta are likely to almost mirror Inter Milan’s formation of playing three defenders at the back. Meanwhile Marco Sportiello started the last game in goal ahead of Pierluigi Gollini and is likely to continue against Inter. In defence, Rafael Tolói will be partnered by Berat Djimitsi and Jose Luis Palomino. The trio played well in the game against Parma and will look to continue that good form against Inter.

German wing-back Robin Gosens, who has been in exceptional form this season, has been on the radar of some of the top European sides. The 25-year old will provide width on the left flank with Hans Hateboer doing the same on the right. In midfield, Marten de Roon and Remo Freuler will feature in a double pivot to provide stability and cover to the backline while the wingbacks venture forward.

Alejandro Gomez aka Papu will slot in just behind the strikers upfront and will pull the strings from behind and create spaces for the forwards. Gomez has already popped up with six goals and has also bagged seven assists till now this season and if he continues this form, he will be a major concern against Inter.

In attack, Josip Iličić who scored a brace in the last match is likely to keep his place as Luis Muriel may partner his upfront. Duvan Zapata may start from the bench.

Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Sportiello; Toloi, Palomino, Djimsiti; Hateboer, de Roon, Freuler, Gosens; Gomez; Iličić, Muriel.

Atalanta

Key Stats

  • Inter Milan are winless in the last three Serie A clashes against Atalanta after beating them in five of the previous seven meetings in the league.
  • Inter are very solid defensively at the San Siro and have only conceded once against Atalanta in their last five Serie A home games against them.
  • Atalanta scored the highest number of goals last season (77) even after finishing third in the Serie A and this season they have carried that form and have scored 48 goals in the league – highest till now.
  • Atalanta’s Brazilian defender Rafael Toloi has notched up five assists in the Serie A till now, highest by any defender in the Italian championship apart from Genoa’s Paolo Ghiglione who also has five assists.

Player to Watch

Romelu Lukaku

Will Lukaku be the difference between the two sides? (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

Will Lukaku be the difference between the two sides? (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

There will be questions raised over the exclusion of his teammate Lautaro Martinez or even Papu Gomez who has been in scintillating touch this season. But one simply cannot overlook Lukaku’s presence in the opposition final third. The way the Belgian forward has synchronized into Antonio Conte’s system and also in the Italian style of play is highly praiseworthy.

Lukaku and Martinez’s striking duo has been the buoyant factor for Inter Milan this season and people feel that if something can break Juventus’s recent monopoly in Italy, it has to be Inter especially with this devastating duo.

The Belgian international has notched up 14 goals in 18 appearances with a brace against Napoli in the last game and the former Manchester United man will be a constant headache for the Atalanta defence throughout the match.

Prediction

Inter Milan 3-2 Atalanta

Atalanta are a free-flowing side and they have done really well in the last few matches. However they have conceded 25 goals in 18 Serie A matches and facing a side like Inter who can cause mayhem even from half chances, it will be difficult for Gasperini’s men.

The difference in quality may just become the factor as both sides have players who can change the course of the match but with the sort of form Conte’s team is in, they look like the firm favourites ahead of this tie. Also, home advantage at the San Siro will play a role. The Hard Tackle predicts a high scoring game with Inter Milan edging the win and keeping the top spot.

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