Foot Predictions shows the Serie A clash on Sunday between AC Milan and Inter Milan, including hunches, preview and possible lineups.
One of Derby della Madonnina’s most significant stagings in recent history takes place on Sunday afternoon, as AC Milan have an immediate opportunity to regain the league leadership they lost to city rivals Inter Milan last weekend.
The defeat for the Serie A surprise package, Spezia, last time leaves the Rossoneri one point behind their closest and closest opponents, before the 174th Milan derby in the first division. Antonio ConteInter, meanwhile, will not want to give up their place at the top, as the race for Scudetto continues.
Before a potentially historic clash between two Calcio giants – both looking to win the championship for the first time since Juventus embarked on a nine-year period of dominance – Milan and their co-tenant at San Siro, Inter, fell from continental competition before Christmas, prepared in contrasting ways.
Last week, Stefano Pioli‘s’ Campioni d’Inverno’ (winter champions) were finally dethroned by the nerazzurri at the top of the Serie A standings, having held the top spot for 21 rounds. A surprising defeat for the humble Spezia and Inter’s 3-1 clinical victory over Lazio, in a big way, meant that they finally let the first place slip away at an inopportune moment.
Although they were defeated and defeated in Liguria last time, the defeat of Milan will not necessarily have surprised their successful starving tifosi, since Pioli’s men have already lost three league games since the beginning of 2021 – one more than during the whole of 2020.
In fact, once almost invincible on the domestic scene since the lockdown was first lifted on the peninsula last summer, the Rossoneri recently suffered three defeats in their last seven first division games – as many as in the previous 41.
On Thursday, the Red Star of Belgrade, with ten players, managed to tie at the end of the game at Marakana, in the first leg of the Europa League with the Serbian champions, in the first leg of Milan’s 32. A goal against and a relatively mild penalty helped the visitors to a two-goal lead, but a highly altered XI proved unable to bring an advantage – other than two away goals – back to Lombardy for next week’s decisive hand.
Veteran Talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic he was among those who rested in the middle of the week, as he prepared to fight once again with his former employers, less than a month after the notorious Coppa Italia confrontation, when he hit his head and, more controversially, exchanged caustic words with the Inter star himself Romelu Lukaku.
That night, the self-proclaimed ‘King Zlatan’ was deservedly expelled in the second half, as his team lost a place in the semifinals, thanks to Christian Erikseninspired late free kick.
Now, in ‘Act Three’ – the final part of this season’s Milanese melodrama – Diavolo could get a sweet revenge by winning both clashes against Inter in a single Serie A campaign for the second time in the last 15 years, achieving the feat by last time in 2010-11, when he won 1-0 in the first game and 3-0 in the second.
The city’s two second clubs now face each other in a league game while maintaining the top two positions on the table for the first time since that meeting in April 2011, when, after enjoying their three-goal derby victory, Milan finally won his 18th Scudetto – and the last one to date.
Boasting a trophy cabinet remarkably similar to that of their Rossoneri rivals, with their latest victories in 2010 (Inter) and 2011 (Milan), Inter are doubly desperate to secure a gold medal this season. A 19th scudetto would not only put them ahead of Milan in the overall standings, but would also offer the double benefit of denying Juventus their tenth consecutive title.
With 30 national trophies and 18 league titles each, the two clubs are as well matched historically as they are currently on the table, but Inter may have the advantage this time around – perversely, thanks to their ineptitude in the Champions League group stage. When the Nerazzurri finished last in an admittedly challenging section, they were able to enjoy a rare midweek break before the derby – the first of several that will take place this spring.
Knowing that Milan’s unexpected defeat on Saturday meant that victory last Sunday would put him at the top of the pile, Antonio Conte’s men defeated Lazio 3-1 at San Siro in their last match, extending their unbeaten run to six and taking them half a century of points so far.
After a brief and relatively rare sticky patch for both men, Romelu Lukaku had one of his best performances since moving to Italy against the Roman side, when he scored two goals and also assisted his resurgent attack partner. Lautaro Martinez.
Chasing not only a first Scudetto, but also the Capocannoniere crown, Lukaku now leads the championship in scoring – just ahead of Juve Cristiano Ronaldo. With two goals in the last three matches, his 11-goal Argentine colleague also appears to have come out of a slight drop at the right time.
Having previously suffered the elimination of Coppa Italia at the hands of Juventus, it is clear that Conte and company now only have eyes for the scudetto this season. The smallest question of a classic with fate is one of the biggest remaining obstacles and San Siro is about to host an intensely fought duel that can go a long way in determining whether it will be the blue or red side of the city celebrating in May.
AC Milan Serie A form: WWLWWL
AC Milan form (all competitions): LLWWLD
Inter Milan Serie A form: DWDWWW
Inter Milan form (all competitions): WWLWDW
All news from the teams
After his omission from the action in Belgrade, Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic returns to the first XI in place of his newly acquired replacement Mario Mandzukic, While Davide Calabria also comes back on the right flank and Simon Kjaer resumes his senior role in central defense, as Pierre Kalulu and Fikayo Tomori both fall into the bank.
Now fully recovered from a brief injury and illness crisis earlier this month, coach Stefano Pioli is only concerned with the availability of Brahim Diaz and lynchpin midfield Ismael Bennacer – one of the newcomers – who picked up a little something in the Serbian capital.
If Bennacer loses, Sandro Tonali would be partner Franck Kessie in the Rossoneri engine room and, like everyone else now is almost in top form, the ace Hakan Calhanoglu will be joined by any two of Alexis Saelemaekers, Ante Rebic, Samu Castillejo and Rafael Leão, in support of Ibrahimovic in the attack.
Never a man for major revisions or unnecessary adjustments, Inter coach Antonio Conte could name the same team that had so much supremacy over Lazio last week – mainly because they had several days off to recover from their efforts.
Therefore, it is quite possible that former outcast Christian Eriksen, who seems to have saved his career at Calcio with the Italian Cup winner against Milan, is preferred to the veteran Arturo Vidal to the left of Conte’s midfield, three.
Ivan Perisic on the left flank is more threatened, with the previous holder Ashley Young waiting on the wings.
Rugged goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, who has just celebrated his 500th appearance in Serie A, starts behind the usual three saves, with the deadly duo ‘Lu-La’ made up of Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez at the front.
Possible initial lineup for AC Milan:
Donnarumma; Calabria, Kjaer, Romagnoli, Hernandez; Kessie, Tonali; Saelemaekers, Calhanoglu, Rebic; Ibrahimovic
Possible starting line-up for Inter Milan:
Handanovic; Skriniar, De Vrij, Bastoni; Hakimi, Barella, Brozovic, Eriksen, Perisic; Martinez, Lukaku
Probability: AC Milan 1-2 Inter Milan
Although there are endless direct confrontations and angles to see this potentially historic confrontation, the main revenue is reserved for two men only.
Before the final round of this season’s heavyweight fight, Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored 10 goals in Milan derbies – including two for Inter – and Romelu Lukaku aims to become the first player since 1973 to score in four consecutive Milan derbies in the Series THE.
Lukaku’s team, however, can be proud of the recent supremacy in terms of form and have come together as a more cohesive unit since the turn of the year. Only any mental weaknesses resulting from last season’s failure to secure trophies can prevent Nerazzurri from expanding their advantage over younger, more dynamic, but less astute Rossoneri.
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