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Inter are second in the Serie A standings but the title is almost out of reach already
AC Milan are in poor form and Stefano Pioli desperately needs a win on derby day
Inter would dearly love to compound their arch-rivals’ misery in this San Siro showdown
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The Rossoneri are struggling for form, and although their rivals have not been overly consistent of late, they can pick up a victory at the San Siro on Sunday.
Back Inter to beat AC Milan this weekend. (-105)
A glance at the Serie A table might appear to suggest that Inter are in a decent position shortly after the halfway point of the 2022/23 season. The Nerazzurri sit second as we head into the weekend, and ordinarily, the second-placed team would expect to be right in the mix to win the Serie A title.
Alas, that is not really the case. Inter are indeed second, but they trail league leaders Napoli by 13 points - which means they are equidistant to Torino in eighth place. Indeed, a top-four finish cannot be taken for granted, since Simone Inzaghi’s side have amassed just three more points than sixth-placed Roma after 20 rounds of fixtures.
To some extent, it would be harsh to blame Inter for having failed to keep pace with Napoli. The table-toppers have arguably been the best team in Europe this season. They have won 17 of their 20 games and are on course to accumulate over 100 points, which would make them one of the most successful sides in Italian soccer history.
Yet at the same time, the 2022/23 campaign has not gone to plan for Inter, whom the best online sportsbooks considered the narrow favorites to finish first last summer.
Inter are too much of a boom-or-bust team. They have drawn only one game all season. That means they have lost six times - the same amount as Empoli down in 10th. Inter have not been good enough at grinding out results even when they are not playing well.
They have also been too open at the back, leaving them with only the joint 10th-best defensive record at this point of the season. Inter are still more than capable of qualifying for the Champions League, but they will not be winning the title this term.
Inter will at least head into the derby in a better frame of mood than AC Milan, who were thumped 5-2 by Sassuolo at home last time out. It has been a difficult 2023 so far for Stefano Pioli and co., who have won only one of five matches since Serie A returned after World Cup 2022.
When the domestic campaign paused to make space for the tournament in Qatar, Milan had just beaten Fiorentina 2-1 with a last-gasp winning goal.
The reigning champions were second in the standings at that point, and although an eight-point deficit to Napoli would be tough to overturn, they were not yet out of the title race.
They are now. The concern is that Milan have even dropped out of the top four, with Atalanta and Roma looking in much better shape at present. Like Inter, they have become far too porous defensively: only seven teams in the division have shipped more goals than their 29.
“Everything that has worked for us over the past two years has stopped working in the last month,” Pioli admitted after the Sassuolo defeat.
It was an alarming comment. There is no sign of the manager being under pressure yet - he has plenty of credit in the bank after delivering the title ahead of schedule last season - but Pioli’s side must rediscover the principles that brought them success in 2021/22.
The Derby della Madonnina is one of the most iconic matches in world soccer. Inter and Milan are two clubs with rich histories and huge fan bases, while they share the San Siro - one of the foremost stadiums in the sport.
These games tend to be hugely entertaining affairs. A red-hot atmosphere is guaranteed, while the fact that neither of the sides is particularly solid defensively means Sunday’s fixture could feature plenty of goals.
In terms of the moneyline, backing Inter is the best choice. It is true that the Nerazzurri are not an especially reliable team, as evidenced by a surprise 1-0 defeat by Empoli last month. They also have a patchy record in the big games this term, going down to Lazio, Roma, and Juventus before the World Cup.
However, Milan’s confidence is on the floor and a relatively young side may struggle to get out of a slump in time for the derby. Inter have plenty of goals in their team and will be out to avenge a 3-2 defeat by their rivals in the first head-to-head clash of the campaign.
Neither Inter nor AC Milan will win the title this year, but there will still be plenty at stake this weekend. Back Inzaghi’s side to pick up all three points.
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Teams: Inter vs AC Milan
Location: San Siro, Milan, Italy
Time: Sunday 5 February 2023, 2:45 PM EST
How to Watch: Paramount+
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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