Serie A Preview: AC Milan v. Internazionale

Date: Sunday, January 31, 2016

Kickoff: 2:45 PM ET (USA) / 20:45 CET (ITA)

League Position: Milan (6), Inter (4)

Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan, Italy

All derbies are high-stakes, but with Inter trying to stay in the top 3 race and Milan reaching for Roma’s 5th spot, this one comes at a particularly significant time for each club. Both teams have been frustrating supporters with their inconsistency, more a recent trend for a Nerazzuri side that just missed out on topping Serie A at Christmas.

Milan, as you all well know, have been up and down for a few seasons now, and while they’ve lost only once since November, they’ve still left far too many available points on the table for another campaign running. Not that all is doom and gloom. We are one result away from a cup final and there’s plenty left to play for in Serie A.

And while we are certainly not playing fantasy calcio, it’s hard to argue that performances and results haven’t been at least slightly better. So why is everyone (looking at you Twitter) still so down? Some long term stuff is still concerning no doubt, but I feel that Milan, on the field, is now in a much more likely position to defeat Inter than we were in September.

And against Inter, who cares how ugly it is? Just win the damn thing and I’ll call it beautiful.

Gorgeous

Gorgeous

Tale of the Tape

Milan: DWLDWD
Inter: WLWLDD

We’re up to 9 set piece goals conceded. Anyone feeling double digits? It’s been a problem for what, at least 4 years now? Inter have netted five from set pieces, while we’ve got a healthy seven. Inter’s defense overall has been the stingiest in Serie A with only 14 goals conceded (11 fewer than us!), but 3 of those have been from set pieces. It’s a potential way through for us.

Another weakness for the Nerazzurri is in the air. They’ve scored just once from a header all season compared to our seven. They keep it on the deck, with about 90 more successful passes than us each match. If we can keep them out wide in our end we should limit their scoring opportunities.

Again, defense has been the moneymaker for Inter. We take as many shots (14) as them, with as many (4) on target. They outpossess us slightly at 53% to 50%, and pass 5% more successfully. These gaps were much wider earlier this season.

Missing Pieces

With Mexes, Ely, and now Alex having spent time on the injured list this week, we are in real danger of seeing Zapata start on Sunday. Menez and Diego Lopez: still out.

Inter are at full strength, and really can’t blame their recent slide on injuries.

Possible Line-up

Donnarumma

Abate – Zapata – Romagnoli – Antonelli

Honda – Kucka – Montolivo – Bonaventura

Bacca – Niang

Montolivo or Bertolacci.

Montolivo or Bertolacci.

Mauri? Haha no, of course not. He only completed 95% of his passes on Tuesday. Granted it was against Alessandria and he didn’t have a stellar performance overall, but come on. Expect the captain to start Sunday anyway, hopefully flanked by Kucka. The wings stay the same.

As do the fullbacks, and one CB. the other pretty much has to be Zapata, and honestly seeing him next to Abate worries me. Donnarumma obviously starts, hopefully having cleared whatever cobwebs had built up before the Empoli match.

And up front it’s Bacca of course, and I suppose Niang will start if he’s still a Milan player. Otherwise I guess we’ll just play a big sack of money with a dollar sign on it at striker.

Oh, they're starting to form a partnership? Quick! Sell the young one.

Oh, they’re starting to form a partnership? Quick! Sell the young one.

What to Watch for:

Danger Man – Ugh. Icardi.

First Goal – This match-up has produced  more than two goals combined just once in its past eleven iterations. Add in Inter’s stout defense and ability to protect a lead and the first goal becomes absolutely crucial. And that’s to say nothing of Milan’s inability to break teams down thus far. If Inter score first I may just up and turn the match off.

Alex – Can he play or not? He supposedly returned to training Thursday and even if he’s not quite 100% I can’t help but think he should play Sunday. If he’s hobbled, of course the Colombian needs to deputize, but Inter prefer attacking up the left side 38% of the time, and I fear an Abate-Zapata combination could be disastrous. It would either neutralize any threat Abate poses going forward or expose Zapata and leave him out to dry. Maybe they’ll invent technology that can clone Romagnoli by Sunday.

FORZA MILAN!

About Dave Lamb

Dave Lamb is a lifelong Milan supporter, public school teacher, and aspiring stand-up comedian living in Boston. You can follow him on twitter @DaveLambComedy

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