Inter Milan will be hoping to maintain the pressure on league leaders AC Milan by sealing all three points against Bologna on Saturday.

Following a dramatic win over Borussia Monchengladbach in midweek that saw them somehow keep their hopes alive in regards to their qualification to the knockout rounds of the UEFA Champions League, Inter Milan will shift their attention towards Serie A as they lock horns with Bologna at San Siro on Saturday.

Antonio Conte’s position as the Inter manager has come under scrutiny in recent weeks for a multitude of reasons including the team’s poor performance in the UEFA Champions League. So a win this weekend could be imperative as the Nerazzurri at least look to keep up with arch-rivals and Serie A league leaders AC Milan.

The high-flying Rossoneri are ahead of Inter by five points in the league table, but a win over Bologna could put pressure on Stefano Pioli’s men, who face Sampdoria on Sunday. So a set of two positive results for Inter could help them close the gap to just two points by the end of this weekend’s round of fixtures.

Bologna, on the other hand, are hoping to close in on European places with a shock win on Saturday. The Rossoblu are currently tenth in the table with 12 points on the board and have appeared quite sturdy at the back. They even have a chance of potentially overtaking Atalanta and Lazio, should they manage to seal all three points.

However, salvaging a point should be the main objective for Sinisa Mihajlovic’s men at the moment. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over the two sides ahead of this exciting contest in Serie A this weekend.

Team News & Tactics

Inter Milan

Inter are heading into this game on the back of a midweek trip to Gladbach, but that shouldn’t force Conte to make wholesale changes to his starting lineup. The defence, in particular, should see no changes, with Alessandro Bastoni, Stefan de Vrij and Milan Skriniar forming the three-man backline, providing cover for goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.

Will Antonio Conte take Inter Milan all the way this season? (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

Antonio Conte is unlikely to make too many alterations this weekend. (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

The hosts also don’t have to deal with too many injury-related absentees aside from Andrea Pinamonti, although Aleksandar Kolarov is missing due to Covid-19. It should give Conte the privilege of choosing from a fully fit unit so we can expect one or two alterations elsewhere.

Achraf Hakimi, for one, could replace Matteo Darmian at right wing-back while Arturo Vidal could come into the side, at the expense of Nicolo Barella, who could be preserved for the upcoming Champions League game against Shakhtar Donetsk.

Vidal should, therefore, form Inter’s second line of press alongside Marcelo Brozovic and Roberto Gagliardini. Stefano Sensi and Christian Eriksen remain additional options in the middle of the park for the home side.

And finally, in the attack, Romelu Lukaku should once again combine with Lautaro Martinez to form the first line of press for the hosts. There is a possibility that Conte might rest Lukaku this weekend, which should open up an opportunity for Alexis Sanchez but it remains an unlikely one.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, Bastoni, de Vrij; Hakimi, Vidal, Brozovic, Gagliardini, Young; Lukaku, Martinez

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Bologna

Bologna manager Mihajlovic is widely expected to retain his tactic of playing a deep defensive line and invite pressure from the opposition. They are a relatively decent defensive team, so the combination between Takehiro Tomiyasu and Danilo could once again be key this weekend.

These two should form the central defensive partnership, with additional support from the two full-backs in Lorenzo De Silvestri and Aaron Hickey, who will continue to deputise for the injured left-back Mitchell Dijks. It will be interesting to see how the young Scot deals with the threat of Hakimi this weekend.

For Bologna, the two central midfielders in Mattias Svanberg and Jerdy Schouten could also play a key role in offering Inter very little space in between the lines. So essentially, they could operate very narrowly and just ahead of the defensive line. It could be one of those days where Mihajlovic calls on former Inter Milan’s midfield enforcer Gary Medel.

Either way, the Red and Blues will be reliant on counter-attacks, so the services of Roberto Soriano, who has the ability to provide a defence-threading forward pass could be essential. He is set to operate in the number ten role, forming the creative trifecta alongside the two wingers in Musa Barrow and Nicola Sansone, who replaces the injured Riccardo Orsolini.

The Bologna attack should be spearheaded by former Inter Milan talisman Rodrigo Palacio. It will surely be interesting to how the 38-year-old manages to break the shackles of his former side this weekend.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Skorupski; De Silvestri, Tomiyasu, Danilo, Hickey; Schouten, Svanberg; Sansone, Soriano, Barrow; Palacio

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Key Stats

  • Since Sinisa Mihajlovic’s return to the Bologna bench, the Rossoblu have won two of the three Serie A meetings against Inter, as many as in the previous 25 games against the Nerazzurri.
  • Following their 2-1 success last July, Bologna could win two consecutive Serie A games against Inter for the first time since 1999.
  • Since the beginning of 2012, Inter have suffered four Serie A home defeats against Bologna, against no other side have they lost more home games in this period.
  • Inter have conceded at least two goals in each of their last six home games in all competitions; they have never been on a longer such run in their history since Serie A started (1929/30).
  • Bologna are one of the two teams that have not yet gained points against teams currently in the top half of the table.

Player to Watch

Achraf Hakimi

MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 28: Achraf Hakimi of Real Madrid CF takes to the field for the start of the Copa del Rey, Round of 32, Second Leg match between Real Madrid and Fuenlabrada at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on November 28, 2017 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

Hakimi needs to up the ante. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

Achraf Hakimi has become a subject of some discussion this week after Conte publicly criticised by the Moroccan full-back due to his lack of defensive skills. It was evident during his time at Borussia Dortmund, who were smart enough to exclusively use the former Real Madrid man as an auxiliary winger.

Unfortunately for Hakimi, things have been quite different under the more demanding nature of Conte. It appears that the Italian’s more defence-oriented tactics are not exactly suited to the right-back’s style of play and with Darmian seemingly impressing in recent weeks, he is running the risk of moving down the pecking order in the Inter first-team this season.

Therefore, it will be imperative for the 22-year-old to put up a good performance against Bologna this weekend. His potential duel with the young Hickey is worth keeping an eye on.

Prediction

Inter Milan 1-0 Bologna

Inter Milan may not have been the best team in Italy this season, and following a difficult trip to Gladbach in midweek, it won’t be surprising to see them once again grinding hard for a victory this weekend. It is going to be a cagey affair, with the home side likely to seal three points through the narrowest of margins.

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