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Inter v Milan Match Preview and Scouting

The Derby offers Inter the opportunity to get back-to-back massive wins over their crosstown rivals and push them further down into their spiral, while Milan desperately need a reaction to their prolonged woes.

Serie A Week 21 – Sunday 5 February 2023 – San Siro | Preview by Enrico Passarella



Inter would have had a solid January if there wasn’t a team that rarely stumbles, which they actually beat, and the Milan Skriniar saga. The points they dropped against Monza and Empoli, and the Partenopei further proving their worth afterward, quickly quashed any feeble hope of a comeback despite the win in the head-to-head clash. There’s a lot of time left, but something unforeseen would have to happen to reduce the gap and make it an actual race.

On the other hand, they took home the Supercoppa by deep-sixing Milan, and they have a very solid shot at winning the Coppa Italia. If the title hadn’t slipped through their hands last year, Simone Inzaghi would have a big notch on his belt already. He’s sort of a younger Massimiliano Allegri, as he’s not a tactical savant or an aesthete, his teams are more pragmatic than spectacular, but he gets the best out of his players, and he wins a lot.

The Nerazzurri have a lot of room for improvement if Marcelo Brozovic ever gets right physically, as his season has been hellish from the physical standpoint, and Romelu Lukaku gets it going. Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Edin Dzeko have been marvelous in relief, but the two stars bring something more to the table. It should be just a matter of health for the Croat, while the striker has been in decline for longer time given his issues at Chelsea.

Despite his intention, the next few months will be pivotal in determining whether they should find a way to keep him in town or move on and target younger and sprier forward. While it was probably unfair to expect him to be as dominant as in the Antonio Conte days, he has been almost a non-factor. It’s not easy to find rhythm without featuring in consecutive matches with that physique, and we’ll see how he fares now that he has been healthy for a while.

They should be able to string together a few good results in a row, as their schedule is cream puffy following this match. They have the quality to elevate themselves above the wild scrum to snatch the last Champions League spot or perhaps the final two if Milan don’t get it together. They’d have to self-combust not to get one. They are clearly better than most of the competitors, but crazier things have happened.

The way the Skriniar affair was mishandled should put a definitive end to teams taking extension talks down the final year of contracts. They should cut bait the previous summer, which used to be the norm, but that changed in recent years for some reason, and more and more players are leaving on Bosman moves. That’s incredibly damaging for a side that operates on a budget and has to self-finance its additions. Not getting anything for somebody of his caliber will make it extremely hard to find a proper replacement, on top of creating an unnecessarily tense situation for the next few months. Either sides have gotten too confident in their ability to strike late agreements, or they were misled by agents beforehand. They would have been in a much better place had they accepted €50M last summer and substituted him with a high-profile prospect. They’ll have to sacrifice pieces in other roles to do that now.

Back to the game, Inter outclassed Milan in Riyadh, and while they shouldn’t rest on their laurels and get complacent, that should serve as a blueprint. The Rossoneri have gone in a complete tailspin afterward, and it doesn’t take much to perforate their defense these days. Approaches tend to be cautious in big matches, but they should come out guns blazing and make things clear early.

Expected XI (3-5-2):  Onana; Skriniar, Acerbi, Bastoni; Darmian, Barella, Calhanoglu, Mkhitaryan, Dimarco; Dzeko, Martinez. 


Inter v Milan



Things have snowballed on Milan after they gave up two goals late versus Roma, and their issues became a full-fledged crisis given the drubbing in Saudi Arabia and the terrible 2-5 loss at home against Sassuolo. Paradoxically, going into the Derby with few expectations gives them a chance to bounce back in a big spot. However, the gap between the two sides is vast on paper due to a few key injuries.

Stefano Pioli has been brilliant for most of his tenure but now faces a massive test that has often doomed him in other stops where he could not stop avalanches. They aren’t at the point where a coaching change is a real possibility. However, he’s constantly under scrutiny since the club always gave him short-term contracts. Even though they had higher aspirations, Napoli’s brilliance makes it so that the real objective is a top-four finish, and they are well within range.

There has been a lot of chatter this week about modifying the scheme. They should, and it’ll likely happen. They need something to buck the trend. Their two-man midfield works and often asserts its dominance only when Sandro Tonali and Ismael Bennacer are there and in a groove. The Algerian star will be absent, and the replacements aren’t up to snuff to shoulder the tasks in an equally effective fashion. Having two pieces instead there instead of a no.10 makes sense since Brahim Diaz and Charles De Ketelaere have been far from great lately, so it wouldn’t be a great sacrifice. They have had some success in the past, and actually, in this very same match-up, using the Spaniard a few meters deeper on the pitch. Tommaso Pobega or Rade Krunic would offset the gap from the muscular standpoint. It could be an idea to lift the Belgian prodigy and get him more involved, as it’s not as if he could perform any worse. The coach reportedly tested Junior Messias in that position too, and that’s a throwback to his Crotone days. It would add playmaking, similar to deploying one of the two trequartisti, but he’s bigger than Diaz and more dynamic than De Ketelaere. But he could just go with two backups, Rade Krunic and Tommaso Pobega, together.

On top of 4-3-3, 3-5-2 is also rumored to be an option, but it generally hasn’t fared well. In addition, they are thin since Fikayo Tomori is on the mend. Their defense is clearly rotten as it has been leaky no matter who was in it and whom they were facing. Bolstering it should be their number one priority. However, it’s a nice question whether the optimal solution is turning it into a back three or strengthening the midfield. There’s some chatter about a very conservative formation, with Matteo Gabbia replacing Alexis Saeleamekers and Davide Calabria out wide, which would be the most extreme choice they could make in that direction. It wouldn’t be surprising if they switched tactics during the game. They can pull off a few different ones with the same XI, given the versatility of some men. On the other hand, while alluring, using Rafael Leao centrally, which would be the case if they mirrored the opponents’ scheme, generally hasn’t paid dividends, as he needs space to operate. That’s part of the reason why he could perhaps come off the bench, with Divock Origi or Ante Rebic getting the nod.

Regardless of what it is, it feels like a shake-up is coming, and maybe it’ll be as simple as Pobega or Aster Vranckx playing as tactical and physical no.10, a move that bore fruits with Frank Kessié last season. They have to think outside the box since their recent showings have been brutal. Their leaders have to step up, and they might get help from the infirmary. It won’t happen in this one, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Mike Maignan aren’t too far off from returning. Even though the veteran is limited at this point, his charisma and intimidation factor could be precious. Instead, the goalkeeper coming back will be the single-best improvement they could possibly have. Since his status is still uncertain, they should have definitely signed a goalie that was ready to fill in January. Ciprian Tatarusanu is well past his expiration date.

They have allowed two goals in the first half in all recent bouts, and they would be in for another rough evening if it happened again. They eventually got off the mat versus Lecce and partially against Sassuolo, which managed to pull away again afterward. It’ll be evident right away from their energy level and determination right off the bat whether they have learned their lesson patched things up, and rallied the troops during a clean week or practice, or if they will keep being lackadaisical and flounder again.

Expected XI (4-3-3):  Tatarusanu; Calabria, Kalulu, Kjaer, Hernandez; Messias, Tonali, Krunic; Saelemaekers, Giroud, Leao. 



Inter: Correa (thigh injury). 

Milan: Ibrahimovic (ACL tear), Maignan (calf strain), Tomori (hip strain), Bennacer (thigh strain), Florenzi (thigh tendon tear). 


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