City rivals Inter and Milan meet in the first Derby della Madonnina of the season on Saturday afternoon.
Inter spent much of the previous campaign vying with Juventus for first place and ultimately finished 16 points ahead of their eternal enemy, yet it is Milan who arguably go into the derby as favourites.
While Antonio Conte struggles to cobble together a side free of COVID-19, the Rossoneri are in the midst of a 19-game unbeaten run and are yet to taste defeat post-lockdown. However, this uptick in form stretches back to the turn of the year, when a combination of Stefano Pioli’s tactical tweaks and Zlatan Ibrahimović’s arrival righted a ship on the verge of sinking.
When Is Kick Off? Saturday 17 October
What Time Is Kick Off? 17:00 (BST)
Where Is it Played? Giuseppe Meazza
TV Channel/Live Stream? Premier Sports 2
Referee? Maurizio Mariani
Inter have endured a spate of positive COVID-19 tests in the days leading up to Saturday’s derby. Ashley Young became the sixth player to contract the virus, joining teammates Ionut Radu, Milan Skriniar, Roberto Gagliardini, Radja Nainggolan and Alessandro Bastoni.
Matias Vecino is yet to make an appearance this season as he continues to recover from a knee injury while the suspended Stefano Sensi is another midfield absentee.
Milan have had their own coronavirus concerns with Matteo Gabbia and Léo Duarte both sidelined after testing positive. Defenders Andrea Conti and Mateo Musacchio may be available as they recover from knee and ankle injuries respectively. However, if neither Musacchio nor club captain Alessio Romagnoli are fit by the weekend, Milan will be desperately short-staffed at centre-back.
Last season’s top scorer Ante Rebic could return for the showpiece fixture after sitting out the international break with a dislocated elbow.
Inter: Handanovic; D’Ambrosio, De Vrij, Kolarov; Hakimi, Brozovic, Vidal, Perisic; Barella; Lukaku, Martínez.
Milan: Donnarumma; Calabria, Kjaer, Musacchio, Hernández; Kessie, Bennacer; Saelemaekers, Calhanoglu, Diaz; Rebic.
As last season’s most defensively resolute team, Inter have begun the current campaign with an uncharacteristically leaky backline. Conte’s side conceded their sixth league goal of the campaign in their eighth outing last term, yet only three matches this season were needed to reach this tally.
Given the selection constraints Inter’s COVID-19 outbreak has enforced upon Conte, the Nerazzurri will have to rediscover that parsimonious streak with three new players in their back five.
Milan, on the other hand, are yet to concede a Serie A goal in the early stages of this season, although they face their own personnel issues in defence.
Here’s how each team has fared in their last five outings.
Lazio 1-1 Inter (4/10)
Benevento 2-5 Inter (30/9)
Inter 4-3 Fiorentina (26/9)
Sevilla 3-2 Inter (21/8)
Inter 5-0 Shakhtar Donetsk (17/8)
Milan 3-0 Spezia (4/10)
Rio Ave 2-2 (10-11) Milan (1/10)
Crotone 0-2 Milan (27/9)
Milan 3-2 Bodø/Glimt (24/9)
Milan 2-0 Bologna (21/9)
While Inter boast a squad rife with (often Premier League) experience – the fourth-oldest in the division – their red and black counterparts have the youngest average roster in Italy’s top tier. Whether that youthful vigour counts for much in a one-off match remains to be seen, but the fact that Conte is – despite numerous health concerns – able to deploy a side of such strength, is a testament to Inter’s newfound squad depth.
Milan’s unbeaten streak came perilously close to an end in their mammoth Europa League penalty shootout recently, but the derby is by far their sternest test of a merciful early season fixture list.
Prediction: Inter 1-1 Milan