The Lombardy rivals experienced very different results in midweek, as La Dea slumped to defeat in Lecce and Inter thumped Bologna 6-1.
Still trailing behind in the Scudetto race following a sluggish start to the Serie A season – and a disappointing defeat in last week’s Derby d’Italia – Inter tackled in-form Bologna on Wednesday.
Though they fell behind at San Siro, the Nerazzurri’s response was almost immediate – Edin Dzeko finding an equaliser soon after – and they went in at the interval leading by two goals. By the final whistle, the hosts had secured a spectacular five-goal winning margin, with wing-back Federico Dimarco scoring twice.
That released some pressure, as losing to Juventus had left coach Simone Inzaghi desperate to produce three points on home soil – particularly with a tricky away fixture set to conclude the calendar year on Sunday.
Before making the short trip to Bergamo, Inter have lost four of their last six Serie A matches on the road – as many as in the previous 45 – and have also conceded goals at a rate of more than two per game outside of Milan this term.
Such defensive frailties have seen Inzaghi’s side slip 11 points behind league leaders Napoli, and they even face a significant struggle to secure a return to the Champions League after the World Cup break.
The Nerazzurri are through to the last 16 of this season’s competition, though, where they meet Porto in February, but between now and then, they must kick off their Coppa Italia defence at the start of 2023 and contest the Supercoppa Italiana against city rivals Milan – not to mention facing the Rossoneri and Napoli in Serie A.
More immediately, though, they take on Atalanta at the Gewiss Stadium, where the sides have drawn both of their last two league meetings.
Without a league win over Inter since November 2018, Atalanta have failed to taste victory in seven encounters since then but will be determined to end that drought after four long years.
While the visitors’ coach celebrates his 250th game as a manager in the Italian top flight (recording 142 wins in the process), on Sunday, La Dea boss Gian Piero Gasperini will become the third manager to take charge of 500 Serie A matches since the turn of the century.
Briefly Inter coach back in 2011, ‘Gasp’ has established his current club as Calcio’s consistent over-achievers, and after a lull last term, they reached the dizzy heights of second place in the standings only last month.
However, they have slipped back into the pack due to successive defeats over the past week, to two very different southern sides – top dogs Napoli and promoted strugglers Lecce.
The Bergamaschi found themselves two goals down after half an hour in midweek, as they faltered against the latter, and despite Duvan Zapata netting his first Serie A strike since April, a 2-1 loss at Via del Mare left them sixth in the standings; trailing Inter on goal difference.
Indeed, Atalanta have also been beaten in their last two games at the Gewiss Stadium – against Lazio and Napoli – and will now want to avoid losing three straight league games at home for the first time since 1997.
Naming his final Serie A lineup of 2022, Simone Inzaghi could continue with the starting XI that beat Bologna so handily in midweek, though recently returned Marcelo Brozovic may come into the Inter midfield.
Joaquin Correa will also vie with Edin Dzeko to partner his Argentina team-mate Lautaro Martinez in attack. Dzeko particularly enjoys playing Atalanta, though, having scored seven league goals against them in the past.
Despite being included in Belgium’s World Cup squad, Romelu Lukaku suffered another injury setback recently and misses out again; Matteo Darmian is also a doubt, so Denzel Dumfries is set to retain his place on the right flank of Inzaghi’s 3-5-2 formation.
The latter’s absence means Rasmus Hojlund and Duvan Zapata will compete to start up front; the latter could make his 200th Serie A start, but last found the net in successive league appearances some 12 months ago.
Either would be supported by Ademola Lookman, who has scored six times for La Dea since his switch from RB Leipzig in the summer.
Atalanta BC possible starting lineup:
Musso; Toloi, Demiral, Djimsiti; Hateboer, Pasalic, Koopmeiners, Maehle; Ederson, Lookman; Zapata
Inter Milan possible starting lineup:
Onana; Skriniar, Acerbi, Bastoni; Dumfries, Barella, Calhanoglu, Mkhitaryan, Dimarco; Martinez, Dzeko