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Preview: Atalanta BC vs. Inter Milan - prediction, team news, lineups
16/01/2022 13:19:40

Following hot on the heels of their dramatic midweek success, Inter Milan continue their Scudetto defence on Sunday evening, when they visit local rivals Atalanta BC.

The teams will contest a Lombardy derby in which the Nerazzurri have historically held the upper hand, and they will arrive in Bergamo having secured the first silverware of the season by lifting the Supercoppa Italiana.

We say: Atalanta BC 2-2 Inter Milan

Atalanta rarely sit back against the top sides, and Inter have opened the scoring more often than any other team in Serie A this season - on 16 occasions - so this enticing encounter could be explosive right from the kickoff.

Therefore, a repeat of the scoreline the pair produced in a thunderous first meeting of the season a few months ago is in prospect - with a score draw the likeliest result.

Match preview

Inter's revival continues apace, as coach Simone Inzaghi claimed his first trophy for the club since taking over from title-winning predecessor Antonio Conte in the summer with Supercoppa success on Wednesday.

In just the second ever Derby d'Italia to be played in the contest between Serie A champions and Coppa Italia winners, arch-rivals Juventus ultimately came off second best to the side which last year dethroned them as kings of Calcio.

With the final kick of a match apparently destined for a penalty shootout, Inter substitute Alexis Sanchez sealed the league champions' first Supercoppa since 2010 by turning home a 121st-minute winner at San Siro.

After that high, they must resume Serie A duty on Sunday, having gone unbeaten in 12 consecutive top-flight games, after a triumph 2-1 over Lazio last week helped them stay a point clear of city rivals Milan at the top of the table.

Maximum points were secured at the expense of Inzaghi's former club, as a powerful Milan Skriniar header decided a close contest in Inter's favour - gaining a measure of revenge for their only league loss of the campaign to the Aquile back in October.

As they now make the short trip to Bergamo, they will be seeking to score in a 40th straight Serie A fixture, which would be just the third time any team have done so in the competition's long history. Indeed, the Nerazzurri are one of only two teams to have scored in each of their league games across the top five European leagues this term, along with Bayern Munich.

Two of their 51-goal haul so far - arriving at an average of over 2.5 per game - came in a 2-2 draw in their most recent meeting with this week's opponents: September's reverse fixture at San Siro.

Despite claiming a point from their latest tussle with their more illustrious neighbours, Atalanta are without a win in the clubs' last six Serie A encounters - drawing four and losing two.

For a side associated with free-scoring football, they have surprisingly been held goalless on three of those occasions, and are now looking for their first league victory in this all-Lombardy affair since November 2018.

In all, La Dea have won less than 20% of their top-flight meetings against the current champions under Gian Piero Gasperini, who once had a short-lived spell in the San Siro dugout.

There is no doubt that for all their progress in recent years, the Bergamaschi still have an inferiority complex when it comes to their fellow Nerazzurri outfit, and they currently sit fourth in the table - eight points behind the leaders.

Fifth-placed Juve are just three points behind them heading into the weekend's action, so the pressure to perform remains intense, even after winning their last league match 6-2 away to Udinese. Following the cancellation of their opening fixture versus Torino, the Orobici began 2022 in fine style thanks to an opening strike from Mario Pasalic and Luis Muriel's double, among others.

Gasperini then led his team into a midweek Coppa Italia tie, when Muriel was again on target for a much-changed XI in their 2-0 victory over Venezia. Having secured a place in the quarter-finals, Atalanta will continue their quest for a first Coppa triumph since 1963 next month, having finished as runners-up in two of the last three years.

First, though, they resume league action at the Gewiss Stadium, where they have won just three home matches in Serie A this season. A modest tally of 12 points on home soil is at least five fewer than any other side currently in the top eight, so a quick change of fortunes is needed if they are to secure a positive outcome from Sunday's game.

Team News

Having returned to action at the weekend after a spell in self-isolation with COVID-19, Inter striker Edin Dzeko should again feature up front, joining his regular partner Lautaro Martinez. The Bosnian forward has previously scored seven times against Atalanta in Serie A; against no other side has he recorded more.

Suspension ruled Hakan Calhanoglu out of the win over Lazio, but his return to league action will enable Simone Inzaghi to retain his favoured midfield trio, with Marcelo Brozovic and Nicolo Barella also set for the visitors' engine room.

The champions are in the fortunate position of having no known absentees ahead of the game, but it has been suggested that Denzel Dumfries may be rotated out of the starting XI - offering an opportunity to Matteo Darmian - and Suppercoppa hero Alexis Sanchez is in contention to start ahead of Martinez.

Atalanta, meanwhile, hope to have Berat Djimsiti back in the fold after he went off injured last weekend, while captain Rafael Toloi and Ruslan Malinovskyi are among those set to be restored to the lineup after Gian Piero Gasperini made a number of changes in midweek. Therefore, teenage defender Giorgio Scalvini is likely to drop to the bench.

Wing-back Robin Gosens and star striker Duvan Zapata are still out injured for the home side, with Marco Sportiello, Davide Zappacosta and Roberto Piccoli considered doubtful.

Despite being an irregular starter in Serie A, Mario Pasalic is the midfielder with the most goals from open play throughout the top five European leagues this season, currently on eight. However, Inter are the side against which the Croatia international - who goes head-to-head with Matteo Pessina for a place in support of Luis Muriel - has appeared the most times without contributing to a single goal.

Atalanta BC possible starting lineup:

Musso; Toloi, Demiral, Palomino; Hateboer, De Roon, Freuler, Maehle; Pasalic, Malinovskyi; Muriel

Inter Milan possible starting lineup:

Handanovic; Skriniar, De Vrij, Bastoni; Darmian, Barella, Brozovic, Calhanoglu, Perisic; Martinez, Dzeko

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