Inter 4 Milan 2 Player Ratings

There are games of two halves and then there was this Milan derby! How do you possibly rate players when most of them had almost diametrically opposite halves? I give it my best effort below.

Inter Milan

Daniele Padelli 4

The veteran backup standing in for the veteran regular wasn’t convincing at all, betraying some nerves trying to needlessly punch balls away from the box in Milan’s dominant first half. It was no surprise to see him static and positionally poor in the concession of both goals.

Stefan De Vrij 8

Tempted to give him a seven on the merits of his brilliant go-ahead header alone. It may go unnoticed because of the second half comeback, but were it not for De Vrij making several important blocks in the first half, Inter could have gone in four or five down at the interval.

Milan Skriniar 6

Not the finest game by the Slovakian, but like the rest of his teammates improved in the second half and calmly cleared danger when Milan looked like they were gathering a head of steam even after Inter had equalized.

Diego Godin 4

The veteran hard man had a torrid time in the first half, being dragged all over the place by the movement of Ante Rebic, Theo Hernandez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Hakan Calhanoglu. That the decisive phase of play in both Milan goals came on his side was no surprise. Back to the bench Godin goes for the big game against Lazio.

Antonio Candreva 6

Ran down blind alleys in the first half, but as one of the key exponents of Conte’s intensity-first approach, his desire and energy were crucial in Inter gaining momentum in the second 45.

Ashley Young 5

Completely out of his depth in the first half, but his experience came to the fore later on as he frustrated Milan’s attacks on the flanks with some dogged defending.

Marcelo Brozovic 8

Started the fightback out of nothing with a wonderfully controlled strike for Inter’s first goal. Pushed Inter forward from then on with his vertical passing and incessant drive. His efforts in the defensive third in the first half shouldn’t go unnoticed either, with one block in particular depriving Milan of a certain goal.

Nicolo Barella 5

We’ve come to expect better from the precocious young Italian. Barella seemed to have lost all sense of position when Milan were dominant, and was probably the only Inter player who didn’t noticeably improve in the second half, even running right into Donnaruma when he had a chance to seal the game.

Matias Vecino 7

The Uruguayan is one of those players you struggle to see making a discernible impact on the state of play. However, that belies how stealthily Vecino takes crucial positions in both boxes. Its no surprise that he had two blocked shots defensively, and two at the other end, including Inter’s equalizer. That’s Vecino for you.

Romelu Lukaku 9

Scoring Inter’s fourth goal was simply the cherry to top off a superb performance. Even as Inter were being completely outplayed, Lukaku did his best to drag the hosts forward, even managing to create a few chances to release the pressure. His quality outside the box continues to be underrated, despite almost always managing to beat his markers and linking well with other attackers. A display to further cement his place as a bonafide modern day Inter legend.

Alexis Sanchez 7

Tried his best in the first half despite Inter’s midfield doing nothing for him. Showed fantastic movement and guile in setting up Vecino’s equalizer and looked to be on the same wavelength as Lukaku when Inter pushed forward. A tad unfortunate to be substituted after Inter took the lead.

Substitutes

Christian Eriksen 7

Immediately made Inter calmer in possession, thus ensuring the Nerazzuri defended well with the ball. Almost scored a stunner that would have been the free kick of the season. Eriksen can certainly add another dimension to Inter’s play and it’s on Conte to be brave enough to act on the Dane’s skillset.

Victor Moses 6

Maybe Conte knew what he was doing with these ex Premier League signings after all. The Nigerian provided extra security to the defence when he came on and assisted Lukaku with a delightful cross that reminded one of Moses at his best under Conte in Chelsea’s 2017 title winning campaign.

Cristiano Birgahi N/A

Ate up the seconds at the end.

AC Milan

Gianluigi Donnarumma 5

It might come across as harsh considering Inter scored two beauties and one wonderfully crafted team move. But Donnarumma was dragged hopelessly out of position by Sanchez’s run for Inter’s equalizer. The goalkeeper of the Italian national team should never be out of the goal frame when his defenders are still in the box.

Andrea Conti 4

Maybe injuries have taken a big toll on Conti, but he isn’t the same flourishing right back that he was at Atalanta. Completely out of his depth in the second half, and didn’t contribute further up the pitch even when Milan were the dominant side in the first 45.

Simon Kjaer 4

Kjaer was signed in January to bring some leadership alongside Romagnoli, but like the rest of the side, fell to pieces in the second half.

Alessio Romagnoli 5

Made some crucial interceptions to try and stop the floodgates as Inter got a hold in the game, but couldn’t do much to stem the tide. A chastening experience for a player who has given his all for Milan in these tough years.

Theo Hernandez 6

Yes, the Frenchman leaves gaps at the back, but what he provides going forward offsets that. Milan’s highest scorer this season was at his bamboozling best in the first half, and even as the game slipped away he almost created an equalizer at the end when Ibra headed his cross against the post.

Samu Castillejo 6

The first half was the best I have seen the Spaniard perform in a Milan shirt. Had Ashley Young on a sixpence and linked beautifully with Calhanoglu to create overloads on the right flank. Rendered helpless in the second half.

Ismael Bennacer 7

Orchestrated play beautifully from a deep position at the base of midfield in the first half. Even at 2-2, the Algerian was the only Milan player who attempted to assert control and slow down the temp of the game, but his efforts were in vain.

Franck Kessie 6

The Ivorian made some excellent runs into dangerous spaces throughout the game. However, the final ball was always lacking and instead of taking up a deeper position as the game changed, Kessie tried too hard to push forward with ill-advised forays further up the pitch.

Hakan Calhanoglu 7

Simply brilliant in the first half. The freedom of a roving role suits Calhanoglu to the tee, and was desperately unfortunate not to score early in the game. Like the rest of his team, couldn’t extend his influence once Inter got back in the game.

Ante Rebic 6

From being on the verge of a January exit, the Croatian has finally developed an understanding with the rest of the Rossoneri forward line. Dovetailed well with Zlatan and Hakan, while his interplay with Hernandez on the left flank made Godin and Candreva helpless.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic 7

One of Milan’s favourite sons was certainly up for the occasion. Zlatan clearly wanted to make his mark on a big game and did so with a goal and an assist. His goal threat in the box remains undiminished, however there were a fair share of promising moves broken down when Ibra took deeper positions trying to link up play. Should Pioli have taken him off to try and change things?

Substitutes

Rafael Leao 5

Why was he not brought on earlier than the 79th minute? The Portuguese youngster’s ability to glide with the ball could have brought another dimension and much needed relief further up the pitch.

Lucas Paqueta 5

And again? Answers on a postcard please Mr. Pioli.

Giacomo Bonaventura 5

Guess what? Again! Why were these three substitutions made in the 79th, 80th, and 83rd minute? Between the three substitutes, they had one shot and two key passes in ten minutes. Enough said.

A game-changing injury or a poor substitution?

Lazio’s 3-1 win over Juventus was one of the more remarkable Serie A games I have seen recently. For the first hour Juve took the game to the hosts and were completely on top. The interchange of positions, crisp passing and fantastic movement were topped off by an excellent team goal to put the Bianconeri deservedly ahead. Then Rodrigo Bentancur got injured and Maurizio Sarri put on Emre Can in the Uruguayan’s plance. The game completely changed, Lazio got a foothold and crucially got the vital equalizer on the stroke of halftime. On resumption, Juve looked like a team of strangers and never threatened. Lazio deservedly won.

The question that Sarri has to ask as he ponders his first defeat as Juve boss, was whether he made the right choice in bringing Can on or was Bentancur so inspired that no other midfielder could match him on the day? That neither Miralem Pjanic nor Blaise Matuidi were able to shoulder responsibility will be cause for concern and the fact that the manager hasn’t yet been able to inspire Adrien Rabiot to reach standards that are expected at Juve is also troubling. I still think Juve made the right choice in appointing Sarri to develop a more progressive style of football. But why is it that after a brilliant month of aggressive football in October, Sarri’s team is starting to resemble Allegri’s version from last year? The key could be the pedestrain midfield. Without that base playing well, it’s going to be hard for Sarri’s revolution to take off.

This Football Weekend

As we approach the halfway point of the season, the pressure is mounting at the top end of leagues all across Europe. Teams will be looking to finish 2016 on a high note, but to do so they will have to overcome tough opponents. There are plenty of exciting big games and unpredictable fixtures taking place all over the continent and here are my picks for the matches to follow this football weekend. 

Friday, December 16th

Hoffenheim vs Borussia Dortmund (4th vs 6th in the Bundesliga)

Saturday, December 17th 

RB Leipzig vs Hertha Berlin (2nd vs 3rd in the Bundesliga)

Atletico Madrid vs Las Palmas (6th vs 10th in La Liga)

Guingamp vs Paris Saint-Germain (6th vs 3rd in Ligue 1. Guingamp manager Antoine Kombouaré will be looking to prove a point against his former employers)

AC Milan vs Atalanta (3rd vs 6th in Serie A)

Oostende vs Zulte-Waregem (4th vs 1st in a clash of Belgium’s most surprising teams)

West Bromwich Albion vs Manchester United (7th vs 6th in the Premier League)

Juventus vs Roma (1st vs 2nd in Serie A)

Sunday, December 18th

Bournemouth vs Southampton (10th vs 9th in the Premier League’s south coast derby)

Napoli vs Torino (4th vs 8th in a match between Serie A’s third-highest scoring teams)

Ajax vs PSV Eindhoven (2nd vs 3rd in the Eredivisie’s biggest rivalry)

Manchester City vs Arsenal (4th vs 3rd in the Premier League)

Barcelona vs Espanyol (2nd vs 9th in La Liga’s Catalan derby)

Lazio vs Fiorentina (5th vs 7th in Serie A)

Monaco vs Lyon (2nd vs 4th in Ligue 1)

Sporting Lisbon vs Braga (3rd vs 4th in the Primeira Liga)

Monday, December 19th

Everton vs Liverpool (8th vs 2nd in the Premier League’s Merseyside Derby)

This Football Weekend

European competition has concluded for 2016 and from now until February, the focus will be on domestic football on the continent. This weekend sees some heavyweight clashes across many different leagues. Here are my picks for the games to watch this weekend:

Friday, December 9th

Eintracht Frankfurt vs Hoffenheim (5th vs 4th in the Bundesliga)

Saturday, December 10th

Cologne vs Borussia Dortmund (7th vs 6th in the Bundesliga)

Bordeaux vs Monaco (7th vs 2nd in Ligue 1)

Leicester vs Manchester City (The Premier League Champions in 16th welcome 4th placed City)

Sunday, December 11th

Anderlecht vs Club Brugge (3rd vs 2nd in the Belgian Pro League)

Torino vs Juventus (7th vs 1st in Serie A’s Turin derby)

Manchester United vs Tottenham (6th vs 5th in the Premier League)

Schalke 04 vs Bayer Leverkusen (8th vs 9th, between two of Bundesliga’s European powers)

Benfica vs Sporting (1st vs 2nd in the Primeira Liga)

Paris Saint-Germain vs Nice (3rd vs 1st in Ligue 1)

Monday, December 12th

Villarreal vs Atletico Madrid (6th vs 4th in La Liga)

Roma vs AC Milan (2nd vs 3rd in Serie A)

This Football Weekend

With no international football until March, the domestic season now enters its most crucial stage. The resumption of club football sees plenty of great fixtures. Here are ten enticing games in Europe this weekend.

Friday, November 18

Bayer Leverkusen vs RB Leipzig

The underachieving hosts welcome the surprise joint leaders of the Bundesliga. Bayer Leverkusen must look at RB Leipzig and wonder why they can’t be at the summit with all the talent in their squad. Roger Schmidt’s men seem to be getting some momentum however, with two wins and a Champions League victory against Spurs before the international break. Despite Leipzig being unbeaten, Leverkusen will always look to dictate the tempo when playing at home. The problem is that Leverkusen have already conceded 15 goals and their attacking system will always give the visitors a chance on the counter. Ralph Hasenhüttl has shown that there aren’t many better exponents of the counter than his team. Expect goals in this one!

Saturday, November 19

Manchester United vs Arsenal

For so long the defining clash of the Premier League era, Manchester United vs Arsenal brings it with new antagonism this time around as Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger lock horns in the Premier League’s early kick off. There is a lot of pressure on Mourinho as United are yet to win against another big team in the league this season. Arsenal have started better, just two points off the top, but have dropped points in their last two home fixtures. Mourinho has never lost to Wenger in the league and despite United’s lack of fluency in the league, Arsenal’s mental demons at Old Trafford present a tough obstacle to overcome. Will the hosts finally kickstart their league campaign or will the visitors lay a marker in the title race? We wait with bated breath for the action to start at Old Trafford.

Borussia Dortmund vs Bayern Munich

The top dogs of the Bundesliga face off in what has become German football’s biggest clash this decade. Thomas Tuchel would ideally have liked to be closer to Bayern in the standings, but a six-point margin is not insurmountable at this point of the campaign. In fact, the hosts have actually scored more goals than the champions so far, but defence has once again been the achilles heel for Dortmund. Injuries have denied Tuchel consistency of selection, but their home record means they always start as favourites. In the other dugout, Carlo Ancelotti has faced difficult questions despite being unbeaten at the top of the league. Bayern have dropped points uncharacteristically and have yet to display the intensity of the Pep Guardiola era. Despite their problems, both Dortmund and Bayern have enough high quality players to make this a memorable match. Both teams need to answer questions. Will Dortmund join the title race or will Bayern pull further away? Tune in to the Signal Iduna Park to find out.

Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid

Another top of the table clash this weekend in which both teams come in to the game facing questions. A month ago the Madrid derby would have featured two teams in full flow playing great football. However, Atleti have lost their last two away fixtures and come in to this game six points behind their rivals. Meanwhile Real have had to deal with a raft of injury problems. First Casemiro, then Luka Modric. Just as Modric returned, Toni Kroos got injured. That’s just the midfield. At the back, both Sergio Ramos and Pepe are currently out. That Real are still leading the league is down to the talismanic form of Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo. Can Real’s attacking talent breach Atleti’s stingy defence away from home? It’s a tough ask. At the other end of the pitch, will Diego Simeone encourage his players to take more risks against a Real defence missing key players? History would suggest the answer is no. The team that manages to play above itself will likely find the right answers in what is bound to be a cracking atmosphere for the last Madrid derby at the Vicente Calderon.

Sunday, November 20

Zulte Waregem vs Anderlecht

The top two face off in Belgium as surprise leaders Zulte Waregem host Anderlecht. Both teams have scored an equal amount of goals but it is the upstarts tighter defence that has led to a five-point gap at the top. Essevee have played excellent football in this campaign so far, but Anderlecht are Belgium’s most storied club and will come in to town wanting to make a statement and cut the deficit to the top. The hosts will remain in first place even if they lose, but a win against Anderlecht would lay down a marker and put Zulte Waregem in a great position to win their first ever league title. The stakes are high in this crucial table-topping clash.

Atalanta vs Roma

Fifth welcomes second in this match between two teams who have both won five of their last six matches, drawing the other. Seeing AS Roma in such a scenario is no surprise, but Atalanta’s name so high in the table has caught many in the punditocracy off guard. Gian Piero Gasperini’s men are in their lofty place on merit as their good run has included excellent wins over Napoli and Inter. They face their toughest test against Luciano Spalletti’s in-form Roma team. The Giallorossi have been irrepressible going forward, with Mohamed Salah and Edin Dzeko in scintillating form. The league’s highest scorers will need to take their chances if they are to maintain the pressure on Juve. Any complacency on Roma’s part will surely be punished by an Atalanta team looking to add another big scalp to their list of impressive wins this season. Plenty of intrigue in this one.

Guingamp vs Bordeaux

A match of significance for Jocelyn Gourvennec. The astute manager played a vital role in taking Guingamp from provincial anonymity to winning the Coupe de France and a great campaign in the Europa League. He got his just rewards by becoming manager of a historic club like Bordeaux. Bordeaux have shown greater steel than last season, but have still not played particularly fluent football. Meanwhile, Gourvennec’s old club seem to have got better under the intelligent stewardship of Antoine Kombouaré. The former PSG manager has instilled a winning mentality at Guingamp, toughening up the defence while retaining the flair that Gourvennec cultivated. As a result the hosts sit in fourth, four places above their more storied visitors. Will Guingamp pull further clear and put some pressure on their former manager, or will Gourvennec mastermind a win that will put Bordeaux back in the hunt for European football? It should be a fascinating tactical battle between Kombouaré and Gourvennec.

Fenerbahce vs Galatasaray

The biggest Istanbul derby of them all, as Fenerbahce welcome Galatasary for the first Intercontinental Derby of the season. It feels surreal that this match is not at the top of the table, as the two giants of Turkish football are struggling in comparison to the capital’s other sides, Istanbul Basaksehir and Besiktas. After a shaky start to the season, Fener have picked up their form, winning their last three matches in the league and getting a Europa League triumph over Manchester United. Galatasary though, are going in the opposite direction, losing their last two home matches to fall six points off the summit. If Fener win, they’ll have the added bonus of going above their hated rivals and putting Galatasary under greater pressure. This is always one of the most heated fixtures in European football and though neither team is currently in the title race, the stakes remain high in what is bound to be a charged-up atmosphere.

Athletic Bilbao vs Villarreal

Seventh hosts third in this battle between two La Liga teams that always perform above their means. The Basques haven’t won in three games, but are just four points off a Champions League place. They have been banging in the goals at home, but welcome the best defence in the league this weekend. The visitors are flying high in their usual understated fashion. Villarreal will harbour hopes of qualifying for the Champions League again. Coming away unscathed from San Mamés will be crucial in that respect. For Athletic, they’ll be looking to get back to winning ways in front of a crowd that always gets louder when a leading team visits. Should be a gripping game featuring plenty of good players on both sides.

AC Milan vs Inter

The first Derby della Madonnina of the season as both Milan sides go through cultural and playing transitions. As things have turned out so far, the red side of Milan have done better this season thanks to the freshness of youth and the attacking philosophy of manager Vincenzo Montella. The Rossoneri sit pretty in third, in large part down to the contribution of youngsters Gianluigi Donnaruma, Manuel Locatelli, Suso and M’Baye Niang. The defence however remains vulnerable. It is that defensive weakness that Inter’s new manager Stefano Pioli will look to exploit. Inter have had a terrible start to the season, leading to the sacking of Frank de Boer as manager. Even amongst the craziness however, the Nerazzurri have enough quality in their squad to suggest an upturn in fortunes if they are led well. Whether that happens will be down to Pioli and while the pressure of the derby is not ideal, it also presents Inter with an opportunity to kickstart their season. Inter have the better players, but Milan have the form. Who will prevail between two of Italy’s unpredictable teams is anybody’s guess. Expect a lot of drama at the San Siro!