Date: 3rd March 2018 at 12:59pm
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Since Gennaro Gattuso grasped the reigns at their upturn in fortunes has been far better than anybody would have predicted.

Conversely, it has coincided with a spectacular dip in form for their crosstown rivals, with going on a seven-game winless streak which has only recently been brought to a halt.

In the midst of that humbling run came a deflating 1-0 extra-time defeat to the Rossoneri in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals, which instigated this current 13-match unbeaten streak in all competitions for the red half of the city.

When Gattuso took charge, were languishing 16 points behind the Nerazzurri, now the gap has been cut to just seven, which could potentially be four by Sunday night.

While Inter look to find a little more breathing room, and Milan look to gain further ground, we take a look at the three key battles which could decide the fixture.

Mauro Icardi v Leonardo Bonucci

In the first meeting of the season Icardi scored an excellent hat-trick, with a last-minute penalty stealing the derby day spoils for Inter in a 3-2 victory.

The Argentine is expected to return to the starting XI on Sunday following a spell and the sidelines and it will be up to Bonucci to quash the threat posed by the forward.

Inter have lacked a cutting edge upfront without their talismanic captain in the side, so he is a welcomed return for the Nerazzurri as they look to get back to consistent winning ways.

In contrast to the first meeting, Bonucci did manage to get the better of the striker in the 1-0 victory in the Coppa Italia in December, where Icardi was unusually quiet.

The former Juventus centre-back is one of a number of Milan players who have seen a stark improvement in form since the arrival of the new manager, so it poised to be an interesting tussle.

Giacomo Bonaventura vs Matias Vecino

There will also be an intriguing duel in the centre of the park, with these two looking the most likely candidates to unlock one another’s defences.

Bonaventura has found a new lease of life under Gattuso, whilst Vecino remains a key cog in the centre of the Inter midfield defensively and going forward.

The crucial question will be whether these two nullify each other or if either one can snatch the upper hand. If one manages to get the better of the other it would not be surprising if the derby were to swing in favour of that particular team.

If it is the tight encounter many are predicting, a moment of magic from one of these creative central sparks could well be the difference.

Gianluigi Donnarumma vs Samir Handanovic

For a key battle, you could not get two players further apart on the pitch. However, derbies are usually defined by fine margins, so a goalkeeper who can avoid errors and handle the pressure is a must.

The first meeting of the sides ended 3-2, so both keepers will be hoping to avoid a repeat of that, from a defensive perspective anyway.

Donnarumma comes into the game the in form one of the two, with five clean sheets in a row, including a couple of saves in the penalty shootout in their Coppa Italia victory over Lazio.

Yet, Handanovic has the experience and the maturity on his side which can be pivotal in a grip of a hostile derby atmosphere.

With the final Champions League spot lucratively still on offer, there is far more than just pride at stake in the . Expect a close, gritty contest, which could be decided by one piece of brilliance. The stage is set for a hero to step forward.