Italian giants AC Milan and Inter Milan will face off in the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-finals in an electric fixture at the San Siro.

Twenty-four days after the titanic fixture at San Siro, AC Milan and Inter Milan face off once again, this time in a highly charged semi-final matchup in the Coppa Italia.

The arch-rivals are currently embroiled in a closely fought Serie A title race and will open a new front in the cup. Inter are eyeing a first domestic double since the Jose Mourinho era, while Milan have not managed the feat since 2003.

Both teams go into the game having experienced a recent slip in form. Milan have drawn their last two games while Inter have managed to win just once in six matches across all competitions. A victory on Tuesday could be what either team needs to turn their fortunes around and end the season on a high.

Milan are ahead of Inter in Serie A, but the latter have a game in hand. Unlike in the league, the Rossoneri have their destiny in their own hands in the cup and should be aiming to take full advantage of it. Securing a trophy this season will go a long way into accelerating Pioli’s rebuilding of the fallen giant.

The last time that both sides met in the Coppa Italia was in 2017-18 when they were drawn against each other in the quarter-final. The Nerazzurri won on the night and will be hoping for the same this time around.

Inter have been knocked out of the cup in the semi-final stage the last two years. Falling at the penultimate hurdle is always a difficult experience, and it remains to be seen if Simone Inzaghi’s men can avoid a hat-trick. With the away goals rule still active in the competition, the Nerazzurri could do well to take the game to their opponents.

It promises to be a hard-fought game, as is usually the case when both these sides meet. The Hard Tackle takes a look at both sides ahead of this blockbuster derby at the San Siro this midweek.

Team News & Tactics

AC Milan

Stefano Pioli has several decisions to make ahead of the game. Olivier Giroud is the competition’s top scorer this season and has led the line well in the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. However, the Frenchman is not getting any younger and could do with a breather. Given that Giroud was the goalscoring hero off the bench in the 2-1 win over Inter in February, it remains to be seen if he will play a similar role this time as well.

Ibrahimovic is still out injured and will be unavailable for the game. This could very well force Pioli’s hand regarding Giroud, that is, if he decides against deploying Rafael Leao upfront, an option that can be considered by playing Ante Rebic on the left. Pioli is likely to deploy his side in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Mike Maignan is a sure starter in goal and will play behind the back four of Davide Calabria, Alessio Romagnoli, Fikayo Tomori and Theo Hernandez.

The midfield will have at least one change as Sandro Tonali is suspended for the tie. The Italian has been one of Milan’s best performers in recent weeks, and the inclusion of Ismael Bennacer will compensate for his absence. The Algerian will partner Franck Kessie in the double pivot.

Brahim Diaz, meanwhile, is expected to make way for Rade Krunic, with Junior Messias starting ahead of Alexis Saelemaekers on the right. Ante Rebic is likely to start on the left, with Leao leading the line. Both Rebic and Leao can occupy the left flank and the striker’s role with some merit, and this ability to dovetail between the duo could prove to be a thorn in Inter’s side.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Calabria, Tomori, Romagnoli, Theo Hernandez; Kessie, Bennacer; Messias, Krunic, Rebic; Leao

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Inter Milan

Joaquin Correa is the only major absentee for Inter Milan on the night. January signing Robin Gosens took part in a full training session on Saturday and is in contention to feature. Simone Inzaghi will probably choose to play it safe and bring the full-back off the bench.

Both Lautaro Martinez and Milan Skriniar started on the bench at the weekend. Inzaghi appears to be taking the cup seriously, and it will be a surprise if both players are not restored to the starting lineup. The Nerazzurri boss looks set to go ahead with his trademark 3-5-2 formation on the night.

Samir Handanovic is set to start in goal behind the back three of Milan Skriniar, Stefan de Vrij and Alessandro Bastoni. Ivan Perisic will occupy his favoured left wing-back role while Matteo Darmian will hold the fort at right wing-back. The Italian is defensively more stable than Denzel Dumfries, and it makes sense for Inter to strengthen the flank given the Leao-Hernandez nexus.

The midfield trio of Marcelo Brozovic, Hakan Calhanoglu and Arturo Vidal will be tasked with holding the fort in the middle of the park. Nicolo Barella looked fatigued at the weekend and could come off the bench late on. With Matias Vecino also fit, Inzaghi does have options to call upon. Having a player such as Vidal on the right side of the central midfield should help nullify Milan’s dangerous left-wing.

Edin Dzeko appears set to start upfront alongside Martinez. The Argentine was handed a much-needed breather at the weekend as he continues to experience his worst goal drought since moving to Inter. There is no better time than now for him to rediscover just that.

Inter played well against Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League. Their role to play more freely could have been influenced by removing the away goals rule in the competition. The stipulation still exists in the Coppa Italia, and Inzaghi should be aiming to grab a goal or two on the night.

Probable lineup (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, de Vrij, Bastoni; Darmian, Vidal, Brozovic, Calhanoglu, Perisic; Martinez, Dzeko

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Key Stats

  • Both teams have faced off against each other 25 times in the Coppa Italia. AC Milan have won 10 times while Inter Milan have come out on top eight times.
  • AC Milan have lost two of their last 18 home games in the Coppa Italia.
  • Inter Milan have qualified for the competition’s semi-final for the third time in three seasons.
  • AC Milan have won the trophy five times, while Inter Milan have done so seven times. They have also made it to 14 and 13 finals, respectively.
  • Olivier Giroud leads the scoring charts in the Coppa Italia this season with three strikes. Alexis Sanchez is Inter Milan’s top scorer with two goals.

Player to Watch

Rafael Leao

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The Portuguese winger scored at the weekend and has been in sensational form for Milan. His directness and ability to do the unexpected make him a difficult player to mark. More so, Leao also forms an excellent partnership with Theo Hernandez on the left flank. The ability to interchange with Ante Rebic up top adds another dimension to the Rossoneri attack.

The Milan trio could wreak havoc on the left should the defensively suspect Denzel Dumfries start ahead of Darmian. Leao’s pace should still make life difficult for the latter, regardless. The 22-year-old is steadily establishing himself as one of the most electrifying attackers in the Italian top flight. There is every reason that he can make a difference this midweek.

Prediction

AC Milan 1-1 Inter Milan

With the tie set to be played out over two legs, both sides could go into the game with a safety-first approach. Staying in the game would be paramount going into the return fixture, and it will not come as a surprise if this turns out to be a tactical game of chess between two of Italy’s top managers.

A cagey affair appears to be on the cards, with Inter taking a slight advantage into the second leg thanks to the away goal.

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