Inter vs. Milan: Derby Crowns Greatest Ever Round of Serie A Clashes?

Giancarlo RinaldiCorrespondent INovember 12, 2010

NAPLES, ITALY - OCTOBER 25:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic of AC Milan in action during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and AC Milan at Stadio San Paolo on October 25, 2010 in Naples, Italy.  (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

There may have been bigger weekends in Serie A but it's a struggle to remember them. Over Saturday and Sunday the top six teams - who sit within five points of one another - will all go head to head. The winning sides could put a big stamp on their Scudetto credentials.

Normally, the Milanese derby would be mouthwatering enough. In recent seasons we have got used to the Rossoneri having to try to take their high-flying cousins down a peg or two. This term, however, that has been turned on its head.

Rafa Benitez finds his team three points behind Max Allegri's men and in a desperate search for some goals. Inter last registered more than a single strike in the league in September against Bari. Since then, their goalscoring form reads like a binary number. Three draws in their last four games have made fans of the Nerazzurri decidedly edgy.

Their predicament is not helped by injury problems. The midfield has suffered hammer blow after hammer blow with Thiago Motta, Esteban Cambiasso, Dejan Stankovic and Wesley Sneijder all affected. Big defender Walter Samuel is also out long-term. Even Jose Mourinho would have been struggling to mastermind a revival in those circumstances.

But their Rossonero rivals do not have their troubles to seek. The midweek controversial win over Palermo came at a dreadful cost. Hitman Pato is out in the short-term while Pippo Inzaghi has been ruled out for the season. It heaps the pressure on Zlatan Ibrahimovic to deliver in a big match and either Robinho or Ronaldinho to raise their game.

The stakes are as high as they have ever been in the San Siro.

What makes the weekend even more appetising are the side orders of Juventus versus Roma and Lazio against Napoli. Each team will have a greater insight into their true worth by Monday morning.

The Bianconeri believe this team can be crafted into title challengers. Their form has been inconsistent but the fact that they find themselves in contention must be reassuring. There have been glimpses of better team-play and tactics which have tantalisingly hinted at a top outfit in the making. Which side will turn out in front of their home fans?

Visiting Coach Claudio Ranieri likes nothing better than putting one over on his ex-employers and his Giallorossi are in flying form. Four wins and a draw in their last five games have dragged them from the bottom end of the table to close to the top. The Juventus scalp would sit nicely alongside those of Inter and Lazio which they have already claimed in this campaign.

The final big match of the weekend might just be a case of sliding doors. Lazio were flying high until the derby clipped their wings and then a defeat by Cesena shot them down. They are still right in the hunt for the title but they need to reverse this recent trend soon. But they could hardly have had a worse visitor in that regard.

Napoli snatched a precious late win in Cagliari midweek to really start the Azzurri fans dreaming. It gave them their third 1-0 victory in a row which has put them right in the hunt for the Scudetto. If they bring back something from the Olimpico it would only encourage further hopes of emulating the days of Maradona.

All these sides have their flaws but that is what is making this season such a thriller. They will probably do nothing in Europe but the Champions League's loss has been Serie A's gain. The next few days will give us a major insight into who has what it takes to seize the most wide-open title race of recent times.