The first Milan derby of the 2023-24 season takes place with the Serie A rivals clear at the top of the table with the league’s only two remaining 100% records. Here, we preview the Derby della Madonnina.

Inter Milan vs AC Milan: The Quick Hits

  • The Opta supercomputer favours Inter to continue their unbeaten start to the Serie A season, giving them a 46.2% chance of victory in comparison to Milan’s 26.2%.
  • Going into this gameweek, Inter (14.3) are second only to Napoli (15.3) for shots per game in the penalty area of all teams in Europe’s top five leagues this season.
  • Milan’s Olivier Giroud leads Serie A for expected goals (xG) per 90 so far with 1.15; Inter’s Lautaro Martínez is second at 0.99.

Inter Milan vs AC Milan: Head-to-Head

Inter have dominated the Derby della Madonnina in recent times. Since the start of 2020-21, the two sides have met 12 times in all competitions, with Inter winning seven of those matches to Milan’s three.

With Juventus’ dominance over Italian football waning in the last few years, the Milan derby has once again taken on a deeper meaning than a mere cross-city rivalry.

Both Inter and Milan have come to be consistent title contenders in Serie A, and Milan derbies since the Covid-impacted 2019-20 season mean just that little bit more now, and this has been reflected in the intensity of recent exchanges.

As if the battle for the Scudetto wasn’t enough, Milan coach Stefano Pioli recently even made reference to the fact his side and Inter are looking to win a “second star” this season for 20 Serie A titles, with both sides currently on 19.

Inter have had Milan’s number recently, though, and this could be the first time ever that the Nerazzurri win five straight competitive matches against their co-tenants at the San Siro.

The two sides met in last season’s Champions League semi-final, and those two legs essentially acted as a precursor to the respective tactical directions we have seen them go in this season.

Back in May, Inter’s ruthlessness in transition and from dead-ball situations helped them reach the final against Manchester City. In the absence of André Onana and Marcelo Brozovic, Simone Inzaghi has leaned into that. That’s come at the expense of press resistance with Hakan Çalhanoglu now deployed at the base of midfield.

Meanwhile, after a change in formation between the two legs in May and despite Sandro Tonali’s off-season departure for Newcastle United, the Rossoneri have looked to further refine their possession game.

Match Preview

The question with Saturday’s derby, as ever, is which team will dominate possession? In recent meetings between the two, that team has been Milan and the deepening tactical shifts between them over the off-season is enough to suggest that will continue. Pioli’s side have doubled down on their possession game, following the recent trend of inverting full-backs. In this early stage of the season, it has predominantly come in the form of Davide Calabria moving into central positions from right-back, and in some instances, such as against Roma last time out, Rade Krunic moving between the centre-backs and one of Tijjani Reijnders and Ruben Loftus-Cheek retreating deeper.

Milan build-up play

It should serve as no surprise, then, that among the 31 teams in Europe’s top five leagues to have averaged more than 400 completed passes per game, Milan have the third-lowest percentage of progressive passes at 4.9%. The sample sizes are small of course, but it is notable that with a similar in-possession game, Manchester City are second-lowest at 4.8% while Las Palmas are the lowest at 4.7%.

Yet the difference between Milan and teams like Man City or Arsenal is that the latter two are pinning opposition defences inside their own half. Among those 31 teams so far, Milan have the lowest percentage of passes that end in the attacking third at 16.9%. That’s a stark difference to a team like Arsenal, who have the highest at 35.3%.

That ultimately translates to low shot volume and quality, with Milan averaging the sixth-lowest shot tally in the penalty area (8.33) and non-penalty xG (1.08) per game among that sample of 31 teams in Europe’s top five leagues.

While Reijnders and Loftus-Cheek have adapted well to Serie A, what effectively becomes a double-pivot of Krunic and Calabria feels like the most pragmatic possible composition. Even so, it feels at times like Milan get stuck in quicksand in the middle third, as highlighted by Krunic completing 66 passes in open play against Roma at 96% accuracy – with only Fikayo Tomori (80) managing more – but just three into the attacking third.

Rade Krunic Passes vs Roma, Serie A 2023-24

That becomes a problem against Inter, who as an extension of their late-season form last season, have been dynamic in transition to start this term, particularly in their last fixture against Fiorentina.

Lautaro Martínez has had to assume greater responsibility in between the boxes, with Marcus Thuram’s arrival and Hakan Çalhanoglu’s permanent shift to the base of midfield in Simone Inzaghi’s 3-5-2. Martínez has been critical so far, averaging more touches (44.3) and progressive passes received (8.6) per 90 to start this term than in any of his previous five seasons with the Nerazzurri.

It is not affecting his ability to arrive in the penalty area, though, with his 16 shots only fewer than Napoli’s Victor Osimhen (18) in Serie A so far. In addition, among players to have taken five or more shots in Serie A this season, Martínez (0.18) is joint-fourth for non-penalty xG per shot, just behind Thuram (0.21).

Lautaro Martínez shot map Serie A 2023-24 season

Inter’s 4-0 win over Fiorentina before the international break was emblematic of this emphasis in generating shots after immediately regaining possession.

Thuram’s opener in the 23rd minute came from a high turnover, before Inter went from one end to the other for Martínez to double the margin and break the game open early in the second half.

Inter Milan high turnovers Serie A

With an ageing Edin Dzeko and an out-of-sorts Romelu Lukaku up front last season alongside Martínez, that ability to truly penetrate in transition was arguably something they lacked. In Serie A this season, only Napoli (10) have generated more shots from high turnovers than Inter (8), and that’s before even considering shots from transitions deeper on the pitch.

Recent form

As noted already, Inter could make it five consecutive wins against Milan in all competitions for the first time in their history, while they have scored in their last 11 “home” matches against Milan in all competitions. They’ve never scored in 12 consecutive derbies, also achieving 11 straight between April 1993 and January 2000.

Milan have won their past two away fixtures in the league against Inter, meanwhile, and there is some ominous reading for Inter fans– the last time they faced Milan while on equal points was the infamous 6-0 drubbing in May 2001, which remains the biggest margin of defeat in the fixture’s history.

Opta Power Rankings

The Opta Power Rankings are a global team ranking system that assigns an ability to score over 13,000 domestic football teams on a scale between zero and 100, where zero is the worst-ranked in the world and 100 is the best. Ahead of Saturday’s derby, here are the rankings for Inter and Milan.

Inter Milan vs AC Milan Prediction

Inter vs Milan prediction

The Opta supercomputer favours Inter to continue their unbeaten start to the Serie A season, giving them a 46.2% chance of victory in comparison to Milan’s 26.2%. The draw comes in at just 20%.

Inter have won the first three matches of this season without conceding a goal. A win here would see them achieve four victories in the first four Serie A matches for the eighth time and first time since 2019-20, and they could do it with four clean sheets for the first time in their history in the competition.

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