Top of the table clash in Serie A brings us a fiery encounter between arch-rivals AC Milan and Inter Milan this Sunday from the San Siro.

The Derby della Madonnina is one of the most significant fixtures in the history of Serie A. However, this particular fixture will be even more vital for both AC Milan and Inter Milan as they look to end Juventus’ spell of nine years of dominating the Serie A.

AC Milan were finally dethroned from the top spot by the Nerazzurri last weekend after the Rossoneri incurred a shocking 2-0 defeat to the newcomers Spezia. Stefano Pioli will look to make some changes in his defensive structure after his team’s poor showing again in the midweek UEFA Europa League game, when they let ten-man Crvena Zvezda score a late equalizer.

Milan have already lost 3 games in Serie A in 2021, one more than they did in the entirety of 2020. And they will look to restore their position back at the top with a win against their fiercest rivals. Inter, meanwhile, went on top of the Serie A standings last weekend, with a 3-1 victory over rivals Lazio, thanks to a brace from the current joint top-scorer of the league, Romelu Lukaku.

Conte’s men have won their last three league games and have lost only once in their last ten Serie A fixtures. With the top spot up for grabs and the recent altercation between Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Romelu Lukaku in their Coppa Italia clash, both teams will be raring to go and get the better of each other as they look to secure their 19th Serie A title, after almost a decade.

Ahead of the Derby della Madonnina, let us take a look at both the teams from Milan.

Team News and Tactics

AC Milan

Stefano Pioli is likely to be without Ismael Bennacer after he picked up a knock in the midweek game. Pioli will also be without Brahim Diaz, as the Spanish winger has not yet recovered from his hamstring injury. The gaffer rested many key first-team players against Crvena Zvezda and is likely to rotate his troops again this weeken.

Milan’s talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was amongst those rested in the midweek, will return to the lineup in place of his deputy Mario Mandzukic.

Gianluigi Donnarumma will take his position in goal. Davide Calabria returns from his one-game suspension to replace Pierre Kalulu on the right flank and Simon Kjaer resumes his role in central defence as Fikayo Tomori drops to the bench. Captain Alessio Romagnoli and Theo Hernandez retain their spot from the previous game.

In the Absence of Bennacer, Sandro Tonali will partner Franck Kessie in the heart of Milan’s midfield, while the Turkish magician, Hakan Calhanoglu, takes over as the chief creator.

Upfront Pioli will expect the old-timer Zlatan to resume his role as the lynchpin of Milan’s attack with support from Alexis Saelemaekers, playing as a wide playmaker, on the right and Ante Rebic to his left.

Pioli will continue to employ his 4-2-3-1 formation with Calabria and Hernandez playing as attacking full-backs. Tonali will set the tempo for Milan’s attack with Calhanoglu and Saelemakers being tasked with chance-creation. In attack, Zlatan will be the target man for Milan’s midfielders, as he will bring in Rebic, Calhanouglu and Saelemaekers into the game with his link-up play.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Donnarumma; Calabria, Kjaer,  Romagnoli, Hernandez; Tonali, Kessie; Saelemaekers, Calhanoglu, Rebic; Ibrahimovic

Inter Milan

Antonio Conte rarely tinkers with his lineups and with no new injuries for the Nerazzurri from the Lazio fixture, we can expect an unchanged line up going into this match.

Christian Eriksen’s Inter career was dwindling and he looked to be set for a surefire exit in the January transfer window. However, his recent performances, especially against Milan in the Coppa Italia, have brought him back into Conte’s vision and the Dane will likely be preferred ahead of Vidal in the three-man midfield.

Samir Handanovic will take over the custodian duties for the Nerazzuri, with Milan Skriniar, Stefan de Vrij and Alessandro Bastoni forming the rest of the Inter backline. Achraf  Hakimi and Ivan Perisic will play as the attacking wing-backs, meanwhile, the midfield three will consist of Marcelo Brozovic, Nicolo Barella and Eriksen.

Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez will spearhead Inter’s attack. The pair have been in sensational form this season and Conte will count on the dynamic duo to fire them four points clear of Milan.

Antonio Conte’s famed 3-5-2 formation usually relies heavily on the attacking prowess of his wing-backs and both Hakimi and Perisic have rewarded their manager’s faith with 8 goals and assists apiece between them. Conte prefers playing two eights alongside a deep-lying playmaker in his three-man midfield,

Barella and Eriksen will take over the playmaking role while Brozovic plays a deeper role in that midfield. Lautaro gets to play a free role behind Lukaku while the Belgian plays more as the target man.

Probable Lineups (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, De Vrij, Bastoni; Hakimi, Barella, Brozovic, Eriksen, Perisic; Martinez, Lukaku

Key Stats

  • Inter have won four out of the last five Serie A games versus Milan (W4 L1).
  • Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez have scored 27 goals between them this season, the highest number of goals scored by an attacking duo in Serie A.
  • Inter top the goal-scoring charts with 54 goals in the league, whereas, Milan are joint fourth with 45 goals.
  • Every time Zlatan has topped the goalscoring charts, his team has won the league in that season.
  • Milan have lost three of their last seven matches in Serie A, as many as they had in their previous 41.

Player to Watch

Romelu Lukaku

With 16 goals and 4 assists in Serie A, Lukaku is the joint-highest goalscorer in the league alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and he will be looking to win his first-ever capocannoniere award this season.

His ability to hold up and link up with the midfield is a key ingredient of Inter’s attack. However, it is his turn of pace and intelligence off the ball that gives defenders nightmares while negotiating with him. Lukaku will look to add to his tally on Sunday and take himself and his team to the top of the goalscoring charts and the Serie A standings respectively.

Prediction

AC Milan 2-2 Inter Milan

Inter Milan have been the more dominant team in this Derby if you go by the recent history. However, it would be foolish to rule AC Milan out of this game despite their recent poor form. Stefano Pioli’s men have time and again shown that they have what it takes to win the Scudetto this season.

Antonio Conte, on the other hand, will be looking to get another win against his nemesis and will believe he has got the arsenal to defeat his derby rivals. With the Nerazzurri being out of the European competitions this season, Conte will want his team to push strongly for the title.

We predict a goalscoring draw in the Derby della Madonnina as both teams have enough attacking prowess to score two goals or more.

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