King Fahd Stadium forms the backdrop for a behemoth Supercoppa Italiana showpiece between Milan and Inter on Wednesday. The famous Derby della Madonnina will take place in Saudi Arabia for the first time, adding a new dimension to this long-standing rivalry.
Only once before had Inter and Milan faced each other in the Italian Super Cup, with the Rossoneri claiming a 2-1 victory in August 2011, inspired by goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Kevin Prince Boateng. While the latter has been part of the club’s history for quite a while, the Swedish superstar will be in the dugout due to a long-term injury.
History beckons for Milan as they’ve won both previous Super Cup events as defending Serie A holders. However, Stefano Pioli’s men head into proceedings amid a rough patch, having won none of their last three domestic fixtures (D2, L1).
That includes a come-from-behind 2-2 league draw at promoted Lecce last weekend, which perhaps ruled Milan out of the Scudetto race, leaving them a whopping nine points adrift of leaders Napoli. To be unable to defend the crown may be demoralizing, but it could serve as a strong motive for the Rossoneri in Ta’if.
Inter won’t be out to make friends, though, especially given their form wobble in Serie A. Lautaro Martinez’s early strike was enough for Simone Inzaghi’s lads to take down relegation-battling Hellas Verona at the weekend. But their performance at Giuseppe Meazza flattered to deceive.
Unlike Milan, whose Coppa Italia journey ended last midweek at the hands of Torino, Inter came from behind to beat second-tier Parma 2-1 on penalties. So Inzaghi’s men are still in the race for another piece of domestic silverware, though it will unlikely soften their ambitions in Saudi Arabia.
Following an action-packed 3-2 victory in Serie A earlier this season, Milan could beat Inter in back-to-back encounters for the first time since 2011. If you’re looking for an omen, a Super Cup success bookended their three-game winning H2H run that year. But the present doesn’t look as promising.
Since club football’s resumption after the World Cup, Milan have only won one of their four outings in domestic competitions (D2, L1). Extra-time excluded, they conceded an average of 1.25 goals during that four-match sequence, so there’s a legitimate reason for fear.
Player to Watch: Rafael Leao
It’s always Rafael Leao. The Portuguese forward had a quiet game against Lecce by his standards but still scored with a brilliant finish to initiate Milan’s comeback. Additionally, after drawing a blank in his first nine appearances against Inter, he tallied a brace in September.
Inter are the reigning Super Cup holders after a 2-1 extra-time triumph against Juventus last year. However, they’ve not won back-to-back titles since 2005-2006, while they’ve lost both previous grand final ties against Milan, stretching back to 1997.
Despite being under heavy scrutiny following his side’s underwhelming showings this season, Inzaghi could be the catalyst to turn Inter’s fortunes against Milan. A proven ‘Supercoppa Italiana’ winner, the former Lazio boss boasts a 100% win ratio across his three managerial appearances in the title decider.
Player to Watch: Lautaro Martinez
In addition to handing Inter three points against Verona at the weekend, Martinez was on the scoresheet in the last Super Cup showdown against Juventus. The Argentine could become the first player to score in two editions on the trot since his compatriot Carlos Tevez did that in 2013 and 2014.
Samir Handanovic, Marcelo Brozovic, and Romelu Lukaku will be missing out for Inter.
Apart from long-term absentee Ibrahimovic, Milan will be without first-choice goalkeeper Mike Maignan, Fode Ballo-Toure, Alessandro Florenzi, Rade Krunic, and Ante Rebic.
Milan vs Inter Potential Lineups
Milan (4-2-3-1): Ciprian Tatarusanu; Davide Calabria, Pierre Kalulu, Fikayo Tomori, Theo Hernandez; Sandro Tonali, Ismael Bennacer; Rafael Leao, Brahim Diaz, Junior Messias; Olivier Giroud.
Inter (3-5-2): Andre Onana; Milan Skriniar, Alessandro Bastoni, Francesco Acerbi; Matteo Darmian, Nicolo Barella, Roberto Gagliardini, Hakan Calhanoglu, Federico Dimarco; Edin Dzeko, Lautaro Martinez.
Milan vs Inter Prediction
This showdown has extra-time and penalties written all over it. Given the circumstances and location, this may not be the most eventful Derby della Madonnina. And considering what’s at stake, it should never be.
We can picture a penalty shootout deciding the winner.
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