MILAN — Defending champions AC Milan play local rivals Inter on Sunday looking to emerge from a mid-season slump that has left them without a win in six games in all competitions and dropped them out of the Serie A title race.
Milan has won their last two Serie A derbies against Inter Milan and is looking to make it three in a row against their rivals for the first time since a run of four straight league victories between 2002 and 2004.
After Milan prevailed 3-2 in the reverse fixture back in September, they could also do a league double over Inter for the first time since the 2010-11 campaign.
Yet Stefano Pioli’s side is deep in crisis and without a win in four Serie A games, culminating in a 5-2 thrashing at home against 16th-placed Sassuolo in their last league outing.
Sunday’s clash also comes a little over two weeks after Inter humiliated Milan 3-0 in Italy’s Supercup.
Pioli’s side has conceded 12 goals in their last three games and let in 18 in the whole of January – the most they have ever conceded in a single month in all competitions.
“When we take a slap, we are unable to react,” Pioli said after the Sassuolo defeat according to Reuters.
“Everything that worked for two years isn’t working right now. If you want to change the results, something (else) needs to change. I’ll make the right decision for the good of the team.”
However, time is against him, with the season about to get even busier for Pioli’s men with a tough run of fixtures to come including a Serie A clash against fourth-placed Atalanta at the end of the month in between a Champions League double-header against Tottenham Hotspur.
Inter has had their own recent hiccups, losing 1-0 to mid-table Empoli, and drawing with Monza shortly after the season resumed in January.
Yet last weekend’s win over Cremonese moved them up to second in the standings, where Milan had sat for an extended period until their winless streak dropped them down to fifth.
No side has conceded fewer home goals than Inter in Serie A this season – five, level with AS Roma, while only Napoli have gained more points (28) than Inter in home matches so far (24 from 10 games).
They are also battling in multiple competitions and are the only Italian team remaining in both the Champions League and the Coppa Italia.
“The facts speak, the pitch speaks. We always have to play games like this, trying to move forward in every competition,” coach Simone Inzaghi said after Inter reached the Coppa Italia semi-finals with a 1-0 win over Atalanta on Tuesday.
“Let’s not forget that we were up against one of the most in-form teams… It gives us great pride to be the only Italian team involved on all fronts.”
Inter will resume their battle on the European front on Feb. 22 at home against Porto.
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