Coppa Italia semi-finals first leg preview: Inter Milan vs. Juventus (Tue - 20:45h. CET; 19:45h. GMT) - prediction, team news, possible lineups

Fierce rivals Inter Milan and Juventus go toe-to-toe in the Coppa Italia on Tuesday, as the condensed cup schedule now reaches its semi-final stage.

A two-legged Derby d'Italia will decide which of the clubs will meet Atalanta or Napoli in this season's showpiece final, with the second leg to come next week.

Match preview

The last time these two giants of Calcio faced each other at San Siro - just over a fortnight ago, in the league - it was Inter who came out on top, beating Juventus 2-0 in a calculating display of their title credentials.

Otherwise, January was a patchy affair for the Nerazzurri, with draws against Udinese and Roma - plus an unexpected defeat to Sampdoria - interrupting their previously relentless Serie A rhythm. It came to a conclusion most satisfactorily though, as Antonio Conte's men edged past old foes Milan in the Coppa semis and then battered Benevento at the weekend.

That explosive Derby della Madonnina success in the quarter-final saw Inter seal victory only in the dying moments, through Christian Eriksen's sublime free kick, but against ten-man Milan - depleted by Zlatan Ibrahimovic's dismissal - they fully merited the win.

Previously out in the cold, before Conte offered him an opportunity in Marcelo Brozovic's deep-lying role, Eriksen also started - and nearly notched another - in their subsequent 4-0 league victory. Post-match rave reviews highlighted the Danish playmaker's seemingly forgotten game-changing abilities and set-piece wizardry, suggesting the former Tottenham Hotspur man could be 'reborn' after nearly a year of strife.

Following Saturday's stroll, the Nerazzurri have now won their last eight home games - and lost just one of their previous sixteen in total - meanwhile maintaining their tag as Serie A's top scorers. In fact, since the restart of the top five European leagues post-lockdown, only Bayern Munich have registered more goals than Inter's 77, thanks largely to the continued reliability of Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez.

Hot on the heels of Milan in the league, Inter have not lifted the Coppa for a decade, so on Tuesday their aim is to take another step towards their first domestic double since the Jose Mourinho era.

Defeat to Inter earlier this month - when Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo was singularly outmanoeuvred by Conte - seems to have acted as something of a catalyst for the Bianconeri.

It has proved to be the only defeat they have suffered since the turn of the year, during a fixture-packed run featuring league, cup and Supercoppa success - a streak that has elevated them to third in the Serie A standings, just five points behind second-placed Inter, with a game still in hand.

In January, Juventus managed to turn over Milan, Udinese, Sassuolo, Genoa, Bologna, Sampdoria and Napoli - keeping clean sheets in all four games since losing at San Siro.

Losing finalists last year, Juve added Serie B promotion contenders SPAL to that list of victims in the quarter-finals, thereby inching further towards a record-extending 14th cup triumph in the spring.

Their serene 4-0 win last Wednesday came in stark contrast to the previous round, where Pirlo's side scraped past Genoa, thanks only to the unlikely extra-time intervention of Tunisian international Hamza Rafia - an unheralded former Lyon youth graduate, making his first-team debut as a substitute.

Juve's task this Tuesday is certainly a far more daunting one, with the weight of precedent loaded against them claiming a first-leg win in Milan - only three of the previous nineteen meetings between these long-time rivals have been won by the visiting side.

With confidence high though - and Federico Chiesa now becoming a regular name in support of Cristiano Ronaldo on the stat sheet - the Old Lady can justifiably dream of heading back to Turin with a positive result.

Inter Milan Coppa Italia form: WWW
Inter Milan form (all competitions): DWWDWW

Juventus Coppa Italia form: WWW
Juventus form (all competitions): WLWWWW

Team News

Inter striker Romelu Lukaku - like his head-to-head opponent last week, Zlatan Ibrahimovic - was handed a one-match suspension following their quarter-final clash. An integral attacking threat from wing-back, Achraf Hakimi must also serve a ban, so the pair will be replaced by Alexis Sanchez and Matteo Darmian respectively.

Danilo D'Ambrosio remains injured, but otherwise Antonio Conte has a fully fit squad, so may be inclined to bring Marcelo Brozovic back in at the expense of Christian Eriksen, while Ashley Young is in contention to replace Ivan Perisic as a more defensively sound option on the left flank - given the threat posed by Juve's Juan Cuadrado.

Paulo Dybala remains the only major absentee for Andrea Pirlo, who should give veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon another cup outing, while potentially resting Giorgio Chiellini - therefore Matthijs de Ligt would come into the centre of the Juventus defence.

Brazilian full-backs Danilo and Alex Sandro appear to be in direct competition for a spot on the left of a back four, while in midfield, Rodrigo Bentancur will serve a suspension in the league next weekend so should start alongside either Arthur or Adrien Rabiot.

Still a paragon of fitness at his relatively advancing age, Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to start again, with either Dejan Kulusevski or Alvaro Morata providing his attacking partner.

Inter Milan possible starting lineup:
Handanovic; Skriniar, De Vrij, Bastoni; Darmian, Barella, Brozovic, Vidal, Young; Martinez, Sanchez.

Juventus possible starting lineup:
Buffon; Cuadrado, Bonucci, De Ligt, Sandro; McKennie, Bentancur, Arthur, Chiesa; Kulusevski, Ronaldo.

Source: Sports Mole / Jonathan O'Shea 




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