Barella vs Tonali and Five Other Key Duels in Milan vs Inter EuroDerby

As legendary UFC ring announcer Bruce Buffer famously shouts before every main event: “IT’S TIME”. While we’re not exactly in the grand finale just yet, a Champions League semi-final surely remains an enormous achievement for the two Milanese giants who have just returned to the big stage after enduring a “dark age” away from all the glamour of Europe’s most prestigious competition. And as fate would have it, the Rossoneri and the Nerazzurri’s paths must always intertwine. As it’s always the case, these razor-tight clashes can only be decided by small details, thus, the outcome of each inner battle between the two sets of players could be crucial. So let’s take a closer look at six key duels between Milan and Inter players while we await the kickoff of the first leg of the Champions League semi-final.

This article will be based on the probable formations provided by Sky Sport.

Brahim Diaz vs Alessandro Bastoni

In the expected absence of Rafael Leao, Brahim Diaz would be the Diavolo’s main source of creativity. So it will be up to Alessandro Bastoni to shut down the Spaniard’s threat.

We expect Stefano Pioli to grant his player some tactical freedom, allowing him to roam all over the final third. However, Diaz will probably spend the bulk of the match menacing the right wing, so a clash against Bastoni will be inevitable.

For his part, the Inter defender usually surges forward to deliver his sublime crosses, but he might have to adopt a more cautious approach this time, as Milan will be looking to exploit any space given to harry their rivals on the counter-attack, and Diaz would be the one leading the raids.

Sandro Tonali vs Nicolò Barella

Ahead of every Derby della Madonnina, this is the duel that the two sets of supporters eagerly anticipate. The Azzurri duo have cemented themselves as two of the finest midfielders in the current generation, with each becoming a symbol and fan favorite among his supporters.

This particular battle won’t just ensue in the middle of the park, but we can also expect some skirmishes all over the pitch since both players tend to patrol the entire green turf.

However, it will be important for both men to manage the gas tank by resisting the early adrenaline rush, since fatigue would have a devastating effect on this battle.

Ismael Bennacer vs Hakan Calhanoglu

This one might just be the most elemental battle of the entire match. Ismael Bennacer has been recently deployed in a more advanced position, interpreting the attacking midfielder role in his own way.

Nonetheless, the Algerian is hardly going to emulate Kaka’s brilliance in the Number 10 role. Instead, his mission is purely tactical. He’s there to make life miserable for the opposing Regista, in this case, his teammate-turned-foe Hakan Calhanoglu, even though he’s been picking up the goals occasionally.

The former Empoli man succeeded in suffocating Stanislav Lobotka in the encounters against Napoli, so it remains to be seen if the Nerazzurri’s Turkish star would fare any better. If not, then we can expect Marcelo Brozovic to try his luck early in the second half.

Theo Hernandez vs Denzel Dumfries

Now surely we wouldn’t let this duel out of the list, as this one often escalates into an intense affair between two hard-nosed players.

At this point, Theo Hernandez might just be the best left-back in Europe. While his foe is less celebrated, Denzel Dumfries is slowly but surely showcasing his worth.

Naturally, Leao’s injury is a major blow for Milan, as it massively weakens their left flank, but based on Theo’s solo goal against Lazio over the weekend, the Frenchman is always willing to rise to the occasion and make up for the absence of his favorite partner-in-crime, but Inter will put their hopes in Dumfries who has to act as the antidote.

Davide Calabria vs Federico Dimarco

On the opposite flank, another interesting battle is brewing. Perhaps this one will be less heated than Theo vs Dumfries, but it won’t be any less significant in the final outcome.

This season, Federico Dimarco has become a true stalwart at Simone Inzaghi’s court. The left wingback has been an absolute menace on the left flank for his foes, and has a knack for scoring decisive goals in the big clashes.

On the other hand, Davide Calabria is a loyal and reliable workhorse on the right side. The Italian fullback is less adventurous than his compatriot, but his superior experience on the big stage could make the difference on such a glamorous occasion.

The Milan captain has done well to limit the threat of the sensational Khvicha Kvaratskhelia in the quarter-final, and he’ll need a similarly industrious outing to shut down his Inter nemesis.

Fikayo Tomori vs Lautaro Martinez

At some point during the second half, Romelu Lukaku will storm into the pitch in an attempt to raise chaos within the Rossoneri backline. But till then, Lautaro Martinez will be the main threat in attack for Inter, as he’s expected to start alongside Inzaghi’s tried-and-trusted veteran, Edin Dzeko.

On the opposite side, Pioli will resort to the services of Simon Kjaer and Fikayo Tomori who will be entrusted with the unpleasant mission of warding off the Argentine star. Therefore, a thrilling brawl between the Inter striker and the Milan defenders will ensue, especially the Englishman who might decide to chase his opponent all over the final third and perhaps beyond.

With so many mouth-drooling duels, 180 minutes might not be enough to satisfy our craving. So let’s enjoy every second of it.

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