The Milan clubs lock horns in this season’s first Derby Della Madonnina as Inter aim to reduce the seven-point gap to their rivals.
Following an incredible start to the Serie A season, AC Milan face one of their sternest tests yet when they take on cross-town rivals and defending champions Inter Milan on Sunday. The Rossoneri are currently one of the two teams who remain unbeaten in the Italian top-flight after ten rounds of matches, sitting in the second spot behind Napoli only on goal difference.
Since their draw to Juventus back in September, Milan have put together a winning run of seven games. Their latest came against early-season high-fliers AS Roma, beating them at the Stadio Olimpico to increase the gap between them and Jose Mourinho’s men.
However, the preparation for the derby has been far from perfect. Milan have endured a difficult period in their Champions League group, although they did secure the first point of their campaign with a home draw to Porto. The result was marred by Davide Calabria’s head injury, although the full-back is expected to recover in time.
Their recent record at home against Inter has not been good, losing their previous three such fixtures. It was their 3-0 loss in February against their city rivals that more or less ended their title challenge last season, and Milan will be keen to avoid such an outcome this time around.
Meanwhile, Inter Milan have somewhat struggled to emulate their title-winning form of last season. They already trail Milan by seven points and are desperate to make sure that the gap doesn’t increase any further. The Nerazzurri can take confidence from their recent meetings with Milan and head into this contest with a lot of hope and optimism.
Inter have been on a decent run of form since losing to Lazio a few weeks earlier. Since then, they have won each of their previous two Serie A fixtures after a draw with Juventus. The Nerazzurri only tasted one defeat this season and can count on themselves to be in the mix for the title if they win against Milan.
They also made light work of Sheriff Tiraspol in the Champions League, winning the contest 3-1, which moved them into the second spot ahead of their opponents. They have every chance of qualifying into the knockout phase. Before that, they have plenty of crucial fixtures to tend to at the domestic level, with Napoli their next clash after the break.
Team News & Tactics
Despite multiple players potentially missing such an important clash through injuries, Stefano Pioli has to pick up a reliable lineup. As many as six first-team stars are missing from action; only Ante Rebic could return to the matchday squad.
Theo Hernandez is among those missing out, although it’s due to the red card from the last Serie A clash against Roma. The Frenchman could be replaced by Fode Ballo-Toure, who has regularly deputised before. Pioli could also ponder to play Pierre Kalulu at left-back if needed.
Pioli will also have to make a decision on his starting central midfielders. In recent weeks, Ismael Bennacer was preferred over Franck Kessie, largely due to the latter’s injury. Kessie, now that he is fit and getting into tune, should partner Sandro Tonalli in a double midfield pivot.
Meanwhile, with goalkeeper Mike Maignan remaining out, Ciprian Tatarusanu could be the man to keep deputising in goal. Simon Kjaer and Fikayo Tomori are expected to keep their central defensive partnership going. At the same time, Davide Calabria, despite his head injury in midweek, should be fit to start at right-back.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic should start upfront with summer signing Olivier Giroud being a reliable option from the bench. Finally, Brahim Diaz could also feature again after recovering from a recent bout of Covid-19.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Tatarusanu; Calabria, Kjaer, Tomori, Ballo-Toure; Tonali, Kessie; Saelemaekers, Diaz, Leao; Ibrahimovic
Simone Inzaghi will be grateful for not having to deal with as many injury and suspension problems as his counterpart on the red side of Milan. On a more positive note, Inter will have Arturo Vidal back in contention to start against the Rossoneri.
The Chilean may only find a place on the bench as Hakan Calhanoglu makes a dramatic return to the club he played until last summer. The Turkish international is expecting a colourful reception from the Milan faithful, and for many reasons, Inzaghi is likely to include him in the lineup ahead of Vidal.
Meanwhile, Inzaghi will have to settle the intense battle for places on either wing as Matteo Darmain and Denzel Dumfries fight on the right side, with the manager probably leaning towards Darmian for his experience in games like these. On the left, Ivan Perisic is primed to be picked.
Edin Dzeko will start up front to lead the line, with Lautaro Martinez the ideal choice to support him in a second striker role. With a fully fit squad, Inzaghi has enough options from the bench if needed during the game.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, de Vrij, Bastoni; Darmian, Barella, Brozovic, Calhanoglu, Perisic; Dzeko, Martinez
- Since the beginning of 2020, both Milanese clubs have gained the most points in the Italian top-flight (average of 2.2 per game).
- AC Milan, as the home team, have lost the previous three Milan derbies against Inter.
- Milan are on a seven-match winning run in Serie A, which is only second to Carlo Ancelotti’s nine-game streak in 2006.
- Inter Milan are undefeated in 31 of their last 33 matches in Serie A.
- Inter Milan have won six of their last seven games against AC Milan in all competitions.
Player To Watch
Talent is of utmost importance in big games, although experience can play an even bigger role. And, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is someone who carries immense expertise in clashes like this one, with the Swede having scored six goals in Serie A derbies against his old club.
For the time being, the veteran finds himself sharing game-time with summer arrival Giroud. The Frenchman was brought to provide competition and a small lapse in performance from the veteran striker could eat into his game time. Ibrahimovic has the perfect platform in this derby to steer clear of Giroud, and a goal or two will certainly help Milan continue their winning run in the league.
AC Milan 1-1 Inter Milan
The neutrals will be cheering for Milan who are on a superb winning streak in Serie A, making a strong start to the season. However, Inter aren’t that far away even though they have had a few ups and downs early in the campaign. There’s plenty at stake in this game for the Nerazzurri than their rivals in red, as they risk losing further ground in the title race if they lose.
While Inzaghi might have a fully fit squad at their disposal, Milan have shown strength this season and immense quality. This will be a cagey contest and we expect both teams to share the points as Inter end Milan’s incredible seven-match winning streak by holding them to a draw.