AC Milan vs Inter Milan: Three key players to look out for

The Hard Tackle lists three players who can singlehandedly influence the tie when AC Milan and Inter Milan clash on Wednesday.

The curtains are about to drop on the 2022/23 UEFA Champions League, with the penultimate round beginning on Tuesday. Real Madrid and Manchester City played out a 1-1 draw to leave their tie evenly poised. And the second semi-final will feature AC Milan and Inter Milan locking horns at San Siro on Wednesday night.

Both teams are unlikely semi-finalists, especially after finishing well behind their respective group winners in the opening stage. But AC Milan and Inter Milan have scratched and clawed their way to the penultimate round. So Italy will have a representative in the Champions League final for the first time since 2017.

AC Milan managed odd-goal aggregate wins in the two knockout rounds thus far. The Rossoneri first got past Tottenham Hotspur in the Last 16 before beating Napoli in the quarter-finals. On the other hand, Inter Milan usurped FC Porto by a 1-0 scoreline before playing out a goal fest with SL Benfica in the previous stage.

It has been a while since either Milanese club reached this far in the UEFA Champions League. So Wednesday’s clash will have high stakes, even as both teams strive to finish in the top four in Serie A. And ahead of a high-profile Derby della Madonnina, The Hard Tackle lists three players who can turn the match on their own this midweek.

Theo Hernandez

Rafael Leao would have been a shoo-in to be the first candidate on our list if he was certain to start on Wednesday. But the Portuguese international is dealing with a muscle injury that might stop him from making the starting lineup. So we have gone ahead with Theo Hernandez as the player to get the ball rolling.

Since joining AC Milan from Real Madrid, the French international has been a revelation. He was an underconfident full-back who failed to make his big move to the Santiago Bernabeu count. But Theo Hernandez has bounced back during his stint with the Rossoneri, and how.

The 25-year-old is now one of the best left-backs in the world. And his exploits from the left flank helped AC Milan win the Serie A title in the 2021/22 season. Meanwhile, his progress has alerted several high-profile clubs, including Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur. Meanwhile, his former club might also attempt to sign him.

Meanwhile, Hernandez will be the go-to man for Stefano Pioli if Leao is not fit enough to start on Wednesday. The Frenchman’s directness from the left flank will test Denzel Dumfries’s defensive abilities. And if his goal against Lazio is anything to go by, Inter Milan cannot take the AC Milan full-back lightly.

Nicolo Barella

We move on to the midway part of our list. And the following two players hail from Inter Milan, with the Nerazzurri being the visiting team on Wednesday. We start with a player who will be responsible for creating the chances from the middle of the park. The star in question is, of course, Nicolo Barella.

By his lofty standards, the Italian international has not been at his best this season. And he has blown hot and cold at the club level since guiding Italy to the UEFA Euro 2020 crown. But Barella needs to be at his best to trouble an experienced AC Milan backline on Wednesday.

The 26-year-old is a man in demand in the transfer market, with several high-profile clubs keen on signing him. These include Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea, and Liverpool. But he is reportedly committed to Inter Milan and wants to become the Inter Milan captain when Samir Handanovic departs from San Siro.

On Wednesday, he needs to showcase the leadership ability he is proud of, especially when the going gets tough. At the same time, Barella will have to bring his A-Game out and deliver the chances on a platter for Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku. And if he rises to the occasion, Inter will go into the second leg in a healthy position.

Romelu Lukaku

We finally end our list with another Inter Milan star. And like Nicolo Barella, this player has been mired in a wave of speculation in the last few months. But unlike his in-demand teammate, Romelu Lukaku’s future is uncertain.

The Belgian international is approaching the end of his loan stint with Inter Milan. And as he gets closer to returning to Chelsea, Lukaku does not know where he will ply his trade next season. A permanent move to Inter Milan is not set in stone either.

Mauricio Pochettino might offer Lukaku a new lease of life at Chelsea once he becomes the Blues’ new boss. But clubs like Tottenham and Atletico Madrid have also shown interest in the experienced striker. So with a few more weeks left in the 2022/23 season, he has the chance to capture the attention of suitors.

On Wednesday, the 29-year-old will need to channel his best form, especially against a team he relishes facing. Expect the Belgian striker to take the game to AC Milan as he looks to guide Inter Milan to the UEFA Champions League final.

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