Both sides have faced trials and tribulations since their last meeting in April.
AC Milan has gone through a nasty ownership change while Inter — who finally reached the Champions League after what seemed like an eternity — had a solid off-season, but one that was mixed with a little drama (see Luka Modric).
But, Sunday’s fixture should give us a solid look at AC Milan’s new No. 9, Gonzalo Higuain and Inter’s captain Mauro Icardi in what could have a Champions League final atmosphere at the San Siro.
Higuain struggled to find the back of the net against Napoli — his former team — in the season opener but has been on a bit of a tear since, scoring four goals in five games — including a brace against Chievo Verona.
And, he could try to feast on an Inter defense that has conceded seven goals in 10 matches across all competitions this season. But, in Serie A play, the Nerazzurri have only conceded just five goals in eight matches. The defense could be looking for its fourth clean sheet of the Serie A campaign.
That all said, Higuain seems to have settled into his role with the Rossoneri sooner than many may have expected. He’s also shown signs of being just as competent as a set-up player than just a sniper.
Icardi, on the other hand, really struggled to start the season and has only scored three goals in six Serie A matches — all of those coming in the last two league matches. Not exactly what we came to expect from last season’s capocannoniere.
But, just like last season, Icardi could find an even bigger breakthrough than he did scoring his brace against SPAL at the Paolo Mazza two weeks ago. AC Milan’s defense is nothing to be lauded at — giving up 10 goals in seven league matches this season despite losing just once. They have yet to have a clean sheet in Serie A play and have just one — a 1-0 win at F91 Dudelange in the Europa League— this season.
But, there is no question that Icardi has struggled to find his form from last season. Granted, he was out a match earlier due to an injury, but he does have the ability to change the pace of a match in nearly an instant — just ask SPAL.
He has also shown proclivity in the Champions League by drilling a killer against Tottenham Hotspur and picking up the game winner against PSV Eindhoven.
Of course, their performance Sunday will rely greatly on the supporting cast. Will Mateo Politano, Ivan Perisic or Antonio Candreva be able to feed Icardi on crosses that were so deadly last season? Conversely, the same can be said about Hakan Calhanoglu and Suso for AC Milan.
The wild cards will be Patrick Crutone for the Rossoneri and Radja Nainggolan for Inter. Both have the ability to lead the attack in the absence of their respective No. 9s.
A lot could also depend on the defense. While Higuain has a stronger ability to feed his teammates, Icardi has not really shown that strength this season. If Inter relies solely on Icardi to score, it could be a tough road for the Nerazzurri as you can expect AC Milan to potentially double-down on him in the area.
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