Verdict: Away win
Best odds: 5/2
A large number of derbies are about to be played across Europe in the coming days. In England, Everton host neighbours Liverpool; in Scotland, it’s Celtic vs Rangers; in Spain, Villarreal against Valencia; in Belgium, Standard Liege vs Club Brugge, in Portugal, Sporting Lisbon vs FC Porto; in Russia, CSKA Moscow vs Dinamo Moscow; in Serbia, Partizan vs Red Star Belgrade, in Switzerland, Zurich vs Basel. As for Italy, it’s the Milan Derby when Inter nominally play host to AC Milan at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, or San Siro if you will – the stadium that both clubs call their home.
The two giants clash in the fourth round of the Serie A campaign on Saturday afternoon.
The Nerazzurri suffered a double runners-up fate last season, finishing a single point behind Serie A winners Juventus and losing the Europa League final to Sevilla. Having come so close to silverware on two fronts after the heavy investments of last summer, they’ll surely feel the pressure to succeed a bit keener this time around.
At the moment, things don’t look bad, though they could arguably be looking a lot better. It started well enough, with a 4-3 home win over Fiorentina, and they added a 2-5 triumph over Benevento to that. Then, however, they drew 1-1 away to fierce rivals Lazio in a game which saw Lazio’s Ciro Immobile and Inter’s Stefano Sensi sent off.
Inter now have seven points and the tally has them in fifth place, though it’s still far too early for that to mean much. After all, it’s only two points dropped, and that away to an opponent of high quality.
On the downside, Antonio Conte’s team has been severely hit by Covid-19. Defenders Alessandro Bastoni, Milan Skriniar, midfielders Roberto Gagliardini and Radja Nainggolan, wing-back Ashley Young and goalkeeper Ionut Radu have all tested positive for the notorious virus and are currently in isolation. It means the former Juventus and Chelsea boss hasn’t got too many options, and the team should practically pick itself, with Ivan Perisic and Achraf Hakimi set to continue in the wing-back spots and Marcelo Brozovic likely to be recalled in the middle of the park, alongside Nicolo Barella and Arturo Vidal.
Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez will be upfront, with Alexis Sanchez probably starting on the bench.
The Rossoneri have so far won all three of their matches so far and are behind table toppers Atalanta on mere goal-difference, despite successfully navigating through the Europa League qualifications at the same time. They edged past Shamrock Rovers, Bodo/Glimt and Rio Ave to book a place in the group stages of the UEFA competition, where they will face Celtic in the opening round on Thursday. Over in the Serie A, they triumphed 2-0 over Bologna at home, the same way away to Crotone, and then 3-0 at home against Spezia to earn their nine points.
It’s still too early to make any concrete conclusions, but it seems the seven-time European champions, fallen rather low in recent years, have finally achieved some consistency in getting desired results.
Captain Alessio Romagnoli is fit and should lead the back line for his team, though it will be interesting to see who plays by his side. Leo Duarte, Mateo Musacchio, Andrea Conti and Matteo Gabbia are all reportedly unavailable, which means coach Stefano Pioli has a defensive crisis to resolve; much like Conte at the other end. Upfront, winger Ante Rebic is a doubt, which could be a chance for Raphael Leao to come into the team alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Alexis Saelemaekers.
Just like with any other derby, the clashes between Inter and Milan have been known to produce some spectacular games and unexpected results. Most bookies understandably have Inter as the favorites, but at this point, it feels that the good form of the Rossoneri could prove enough to swing the contest their way, especially if Zlatan gets into the right mood against Inter’s makeshift defence.
Verdict: Away win
Best odds: 5/2
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