It’s time for the second Derby della Madonnina and this time around Inter Milan will play host to city rivals AC Milan. Inter are comfortably perched atop the Italian summit with seven points separating closest rivals Juventus, while Milan are hovering in third place another point short.
Last September Milan won the derby after their latest recruit Ronaldinho scored a header in the 37th minute to seal the win. The prestigious derby always brings up a heated passion and promises to be very an enthralling affair—especially considering that the outcome could be decisive for either team in the Scudetto race.
More important things than the city's bragging rights will be at stake on Sunday evening.
Lady luck has stuck by Inter this season and has seen the team collect points despite showcasing some very unconvincing performances at times. Or is it perhaps skill that has had them scraping up the points in spite of below par performances? Whatever the reason, Inter has done well and are separated comfortably by seven points to the chasing pack.
Last week Inter finally grabbed a convincing win on their away trip to Lecce. The Nerazzuri dominated the game and Ibrahimovic put in a man-of-the-match performance as he opened the goal scoring against the minnows and went on to create several important chances.
Luis Figo and Dejan Stankovic followed suit by adding their names to the scoresheet in order to seal a 3-0 victory.
Mario Balotelli was back on the bench and was seen laughing with José Mourinho in the dug-out despite reports of their less than friendly relationship. SuperMario even came on with five minutes left in favor of Ibrahimovic whereas Figo and Marco Materazzi were handed rare starts.
Adriano has finally sat out his three-match ban and is back at Mourinho’s disposal but question is—will he be match fit enough to be handed a starting shirt? The Brazilian was onto something big before he got slammed with the ban and will be hoping to find the same form very soon.
Mourinho will have a rather luxurious problem at hand as he will have the entire squad available for the derby with the exception of Balotelli who will be sitting out a ban.
Inter could effectively ruin Milan’s chances of the Scudetto with a win in the up-coming derby and have as much as 11 points separating them from the top. Mourinho lost his very first derby and will probably do everything in his power to keep that feat from repeating itself.
Keep an eye on: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
With 14 goals to his name Ibrahimovic is Inter’s highest goal scorer by far. The Swede is however infamous for mixing into the background when it comes to the more prestigious games. With the upcoming double fixture against Manchester United looming around the corner the forward better start showing off his fancy skills against better opposition–and soon.
Probable starting XI 4-3-1-2: Cesar; Maicon, Burdisso, Materazzi, Santon; Zanetti, Cambiasso, Muntari; Stankovic; Ibrahimovic, Adriano
Ever since the Christmas break Milan has mixed draws with convincing wins—in other words, the team has showcased a very inconsistent form.
Last week the Milan was held to a draw by basement boys Reggina at the San Siro. The Rossoneri only managed to salvage a point after Kaká’s well-placed spot kick. Kaká’s fellow countryman Ronaldinho received a starting shirt after a month on the bench but an inconsistent performance saw him substituted for Inzaghi after an hour’s play.
David Beckham had more than his share of pressure against Reggina with fellow midfielder Andrea Pirlo suspended. The Englishman had to drift into a more central role but summer addition Mathieu Flamini helped out by making his best game to date.
Kaká limped off with a suspected fracture in his left foot against Reggina and was rushed to the hospital after the game. X-rays showed that he had strained his left foot and was left with painful bruising—an injury that could keep him out of action for up to two weeks.
However, recent reports suggest that he could make a sensational comeback in time for the derby. The Brazilian is fighting the clock and it would obviously be a major blow for Ancelotti should he fail to recover on time. It does however open up the possibility of Ronaldinho making his second consecutive start.
Like mentioned above, Ancelotti may have to come without his star player and highest goal scorer, Kaká. Apart from that Gennaro Gattuso is still in rehabilitation for his knee injury whereas Daniele Bonera will sit out a ban after picking up booking in last week’s fixture against Reggina.
There are however some good news for the Rossoneri faithful as Alessandro Nesta made his first full training with the team on Wednesday after spending months on the sidelines struggling with a persistent back injury. The veteran will be of immense value to Carletto and is most likely start on the bench on Sunday.
Milan are in tense negotiations with LA Galaxy over a permanent move for Beckham but full focus will be on the derby as the Rossoneri will seek to grab maximum points while a defeat would see them land a staggering 11 points behind city rivals Inter. Not only that – a defeat could erase any chances of Milan winning the Scudetto.
Keep an eye on: Paolo Maldini
The veteran is set to hang up his boots at the end of the season after spending almost a quarter of a century in Italy’s top flight. A last derby win is a must for the nostalgic Rossoneri faithful and what you can expect from this legend is pure class and fantastic football as he looks to lead Milan to victory in his final Milanderby.
Probable starting XI 4-3-2-1: Abbiati; Zambrotta, Kaladze, Maldini, Jankulovska; Beckham, Pirlo, Ambrosini; Seedorf, Ronaldinho; Pato