How Inter Will Line Up Against AC Milan

Colin O'BrienContributor IDecember 20, 2013

MILAN, ITALY - DECEMBER 01:  Head coach of FC Inter Milan Walter Mazzarri speaks with Javier Zanetti during the Serie A match between FC Internazionale Milano and UC Sampdoria at San Siro Stadium on December 1, 2013 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images

The build-up to the Derby della Madonnina has been soured by more trouble involving fans and the game's governing body in Italy, but with or without Inter's ultras in the Curva Nord come Sunday night, this game is vital for both sides. 

Of course, every team wants to win its local derby, but here in Italy, there's a sense that both sides need to win this game. 

Milan are just six points above the drop zone, which is an incredible predicament for one of the game's most decorated clubs to be in. They've picked up just 19 points from 16 games, and even though they managed to stay in the Champions League, anything less than a win against Inter would be disastrous for the Rossoneri—and especially for coach Max Allegri. 

Allegri's counterpart on the Inter bench is a little more secure in his job, and the side have by and large improved since Walter Mazzarri began his tenure. That said, they're hardly setting Serie A alight as of yet and could be overtaken by sixth-placed Hellas Verona if they fail to win on the weekend. 

Inter are without a win in four games now, having drawn three and lost one. Mazzarri will need to arrest that slump before it becomes a worrying trend.

How he chooses to line up against Milan will be vital to that turn-around. The Rossoneri are ravaged with injury at the moment and limited in terms of how they can approach the game, but they should be on a high after the way they denied a win to Roma last week.

Allegri will be without captain Riccardo Montolivo, Marco Amelia, Matias Silvestre, Stephan El Shaarawy, Robinho, Valter Birsa, Ignazio Abate and Urby Emanuelson. He'll likely go with his typically narrow 4-3-1-2, with only Kevin Constant and Mattia De Sciglio providing any real width. 

Against an Inter side that favour the flanks, it promises to be an interesting tie tactically. Mazzarri rarely strays from his favoured 3-5-1-1, of course. 

Samir Handanovic, who might be Inter's most valuable player at the moment, will start between the posts. In front of him, it's likely to be Hugo Campagnaro, Andrea Ranocchia and either Juan Jesus or Rolando.

With the exception of the Portuguese centre-back, Inter's defenders have been woeful in recent weeks. Ranocchia, in particular, needs to improve, but Campagnaro was flat-footed against Napoli last week and can't afford the same kind of performance against Mario Balotelli. 

In the middle, Mazzarri has several options. It seems likely that he'll continue to favour Jonathan on the right, while Javier Zanetti seems the obvious choice for the left flank if he is fit. Yuto Nagatomo has been in good form this season, but the veteran captain has all the class and the cool head needed for a tie of this stature, and there's no one better to inspire the Nerazzurri to a win.

Esteban Cambiasso should control things in the centre, alongside Fredy Guarin. Ricky Alvarez is unavailable following the red card he picked up in Naples, and Inter will miss his creativity. His absence at least presents an opportunity for young Mateo Kovacic (19 years old) to make an impression in a key tie. 

Up front, Inter can rely on Rodrigo Palacio to lead the line. The Argentine is Inter's top scorer this season with nine goals, and he is always a threat. Behind him, Ishak Belfodil should start, unless Mazzarri goes with Kovacic in a more advanced role with Saphir Sliti Taider in the centre.