Seeking to inch closer to a successful defence of their Serie A title, reigning champions Inter Milan visit Bologna on Wednesday night, in a match postponed from earlier this year.
They arrive at Stadio Renato Dall’Ara having enjoyed an excellent week in both league and cup, while their hosts posted a second successive draw at the weekend to go four games unbeaten.
For a day, at least, Inter returned to the top of the Serie A standings after beating Roma on Saturday to record a fourth straight league win, but their city rivals Milan shot back to the summit with a gritty victory over another capital club, Lazio; taking a two-point lead.
Goals from Denzel Dumfries and Marcelo Brozovic put the Nerazzurri in control at half-time of their clash with the Giallorossi, and the recently resurgent Lautaro Martinez headed home after the interval to secure victory over the ex-Inter boss Jose Mourinho.
Ending Roma’s 12-match unbeaten run capped a fine week for Simone Inzaghi’s side, after they swept past Milan into the Coppa Italia final with a 3-0 second-leg win in midweek, with Martinez volleying in the opening goal.
Before they take on Juventus next month, though, last year’s champions have the Scudetto’s destiny in their hands, with dreams of a domestic double still very much alive.
Potentially just five wins away from defending their title, Inter still have Wednesday’s game in hand on Milan, so taking maximum points at Dall’Ara would elevate them back to first place by a single point.
Having taken care of their most challenging fixtures, Inzaghi’s men also have a relatively gentle run-in to the end of their campaign, which concludes at home to Sampdoria next month – with Udinese, Empoli and Cagliari to play between now and then.
Crushed 6-1 in September’s reverse fixture at San Siro, Bologna have also failed to defeat Inter in their last 15 attempts on home soil – losing 12 times in the process – so precedent certainly weighs against them before the Milanese giants roll into town.
Once an Inter player and assistant to former manager Roberto Mancini, the Rossoblu’s head coach Sinisa Mihajlovic has watched on from afar in recent weeks, as he undergoes treatment for leukaemia.
He will surely have been impressed by his side’s feats in his absence, with the Emilian club’s inconsistency being replaced by an unbeaten streak which stretched to four games following Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Udinese.
Representing their longest league run without defeat since early last year, Bologna have also held Juventus and Milan, plus beaten Sampdoria 2-0 during that spell – seeing them secure a safe mid-table spot.
Scoring twice against Udinese – through promising wing-back Aaron Hickey and substitute Nicola Sansone – the Felsinei even managed to cope without their attacking talisman Marko Arnautovic at the weekend.
The former Inter striker, who was suspended last time out, had scored each of Bologna’s previous six Serie A goals, with the last time another name appeared on the scoresheet being in January. Now back in action, though, the firebrand forward would love nothing better than to get one over on his old club.
Bologna Serie A form:
Inter Milan Serie A form:
Inter Milan form (all competitions):
We say: Bologna 0-1 Inter Milan
Having caused problems for both Milan and Juve of late, Bologna are unlikely to surrender in the manner they did when these clubs last met – losing by a five-goal margin.
It may be an attritional affair at times, but Inter have sufficient guile – and a variety of options on the bench – to help them unlock the Rossoblu’s rearguard eventually.