The final Derby Della Madonnina of the 2020/21 campaign may be the biggest yet with the Scudetto race as tight as ever. To prepare we checked in with Martino Puccio to scout out Milan. You can follow Martino on Twitter here and check out his work on Serie A for The Athletic Fantasy. He also hosts the State of Play podcast.
Q: Sandro Tonali was strongly rumored to be signed by Inter last summer, but instead ended up in Milan. How have his first six months in Milan gone? Is he living up to his early billing?
A: Sandro’s first six months at his favorite boyhood club have been a bit inconsistent. There have been some really strong highs in certain matches and then there’s lows like the Red Card against Benevento. For a kid who just turned 20 and received comparisons to some of the great midfielders of all-time it wasn’t going to be an immediate dominant impact. A main reason why Inter strayed away was because of Conte’s insistences on players who can help him win now. He keeps getting better by the appearance and is only beginning to scratch the surface of his potential.
Q: After going almost an entire calendar year undefeated, Milan has four losses since January. What’s been going wrong recently in the Rossoneri camp?
A: There have been so many injury issues for the Rossoneri this season by sending out lineups against Atalanta and Juventus that have a few players out of position. Against top teams like that it is difficult to pull off a strong performance as well as facing Inter with 10 men in the second half of a cup match. After returning some of their players a few look incredibly rusty and the others have been poor. There’s ebbs and flows to a season and Milan are in their rough patch of form at the moment. Consistency and the right attitude will see it turn around.
Q: What is Stefano Pioli’s side’s biggest strength? How can they cause Inter problems? And on the flip side, where has Milan been known to struggle this season?
A: Pioli’s Milan’s biggest strength is creating lots of opportunities through their attacking midfielders throughout matches, link-up play and great pressing causes teams to be under pressure for stretches during matches. We saw that in the first derby where Milan had lots of space on occasion and kept attacking Inter forcing them into mistakes. But their biggest issue has been handling pressure themselves and forcing lost possession and poor passing leading to great opportunities for their opposition to score. Poor fouls allowed Inter to score from two set-pieces in the derby just two weeks ago. This will be the important part of the match.
Q: Milan has several players on loan with options to buy, including Fikayo Tomori, Brahmin Diaz, Diogo Dalot, and Soualiho Meïté. Who do you expect to stick around next season? Is this a sustainable roster building structure?
A: If Milan end up reaching the Champions League and a certain 2-3 players leave the club I would envision seeing Fikayo Tomori staying due to his massive upside and as for the others the rumored prices for Brahim and Dalot are so high that Milan will probably look elsewhere for a backup LB and CAM. As for Meite the jury is still out on him as his price is cheap but his performances have been underwhelming to start. It is a sustainable structure for the time being due to the pandemic and FFP restrictions that still haunt the club from the summer of 2017. Once that is fixed, just like Inter’s was, they can turn it around a lot faster.
Q: And finally, what’s your prediction for Sunday’s derby?
A: These past two derbies have been close and following the same scoreline of 2-1. I think Milan is looking to bounce back after the Cup and terrible match vs. Spezia but due to Inter being well rested this one is going to end 2-2 as both sides grab a hard earned draw.
Many thanks to Martino for his time!