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

The Hard Tackle lists three players who can singlehandedly influence the upcoming game between Inter Milan and AC Milan on Tuesday.

Just three more games remain for the world to witness the 2022/23 UEFA Champions League winner. The two second-leg fixtures of the semi-finals will greet us this week. And the first match will feature Inter Milan and AC Milan, with the two rivals locking horns on Tuesday night in the latest instalment of the Derby della Madonnina.

Inter Milan will have a sizable advantage heading into the second leg after beating AC Milan 2-0 in the first leg last week. And with the Rossoneri struggling to find the back of the net consistently, the “home side” will be the odds-on favourite to reach the UEFA Champions League final for the first time since 2010.

The two teams could not have been on more contrasting runs of form heading into Tuesday’s clash. Inter Milan will come into the match on the back of a seven-match winning run. On the other hand, AC Milan’s last two games have ended in 2-0 defeats, with the most recent featuring an emotional discussion between Stefano Pioli’s charges and the club’s fans.

Irrespective of the result on Tuesday, Italy will have a representative in the UEFA Champions League final. And as is usually the case in every game, certain players take the proceedings by the scruff of their necks to influence the final score. With that in mind, The Hard Tackle lists three such stars who might rise to the occasion this week.

Nicolo Barella

Our list begins with the player whose performances will go a long way in determining if the Inter Milan strikers will have a field day at work on Tuesday. We are, of course, talking about the hosts’ midfield metronome, Nicolo Barella.

The Italian international has not been at his menacing best in the middle of the park this season. While he has still produced some magnificent moments with his magical work on the ball, he has not done so consistently. But he remains a pivotal figure for Inter Milan despite his shortcomings.

Barella’s ability to push the buttons of his opponents by letting the ball do the talking is critical for Inter Milan. And his qualities have captured the attention of several clubs, including Liverpool, Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Barcelona.

But while Barcelona, Liverpool, and others remain keen on signing Barella, his focus remains on the pitch. Recent reports have also claimed that he is eager to become the Inter Milan captain when Samir Handanovic calls it a day. And another game-changing display will help his case, especially if it comes on such a big stage.

Mike Maignan

With Inter Milan on top of AC Milan, the “visitors” have it all to do on Tuesday. So we have gone with two players representing the Rossoneri to round off our list. And the first of this upcoming duo is Mike Maignan.

While goals will be of utmost importance for AC Milan, they need to ensure they do not concede a goal on Tuesday. The French international will thus need to rise to the occasion and play out of his skin to keep Inter Milan at bay.

The Nerazzurri will boast of in-form players like Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku. In addition, Barella, as iterated already, will also hold the key for Inter Milan with his playmaking abilities in the middle of the park. But Stefano Pioli will know that he can count on Maignan to pull out all the stops and keep AC Milan in the tie.

The 27-year-old has endured a difficult season at San Siro, with a long-term injury also robbing him of a spot in France’s FIFA World Cup 2022 squad. But now that he is back at his best, his performance will go a long way in determining whether AC Milan can vie for a historic eighth Champions League crown.

Sandro Tonali

While Rafael Leao’s possible absence means goals will be hard to come by for AC Milan, we have gone with another defensive-minded player. We are talking about Sandro Tonali, whose showing in the middle of the park can galvanise the players in front of him.

Leao might not be the only pivotal figure missing from AC Milan’s starting lineup. Ismael Bennacer is also “touch and go” for Tuesday’s clash and might not make it to the matchday squad either. So Tonali needs to play out of his skin to restrict the creative output of Nicolo Barella.

The Inter Milan wizard thrives on freedom in the middle of the park and the advanced areas. So Tonali will have the onus on him to keep the pockets of spaces occupied to thwart Barella in the midfield battle. And if he comes out on top, AC Milan might trouble Inter Milan considerably.

The young Italian has not been at his best this season, with his inconsistencies mirroring AC Milan’s pendulating form. But he has still created the most “big chances” in the UEFA Champions League this term. Nonetheless, now is the time to find the missing spark, with the campaign hinging on the result of Tuesday’s much-awaited clash.

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