Aldo Leopold – a famous ecologist, forester and environmentalist – once said, “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
Of course, the American’s perspective while saying this concentrated more on the environmental aspect of the land but taking a deeper look into it, what one finds is the sense of belonging a human mind holds with the land of his association.
Over centuries, Alma land has remained an attribute for mankind’s inclination, liking, passion and compassion towards a unit that represents an entity hailing from the land his blood has formed a bond with. It is fairly easier and comfortable for one to identify his wrath, loyalty and devotion with a crew that emblematizes the significance of the land he belongs to.
However, in the city of Milan in Italy many of these arguments stand false when it comes to football. Two major clubs namely AC Milan and FC Internazionale Milano have governed highest order of respect and stature in European football for years. Both originate from the same city and yet manage to categorise an identified class of supporters who not only are the faithfuls of their own team, they administer an apparent disdain for the other.
Every single season when Derby de la Madonnina surfaces minimum twice round the year, a vehement vibe of emotions prevails all around the Europe justifying its status as the most intense derby fought across the continent. There are reasons for the intensity of this contest being incomparable and matchless.
The roots for the fierce rivalry date as back as the origination of the two teams. Ever since Inter separated as a different entity from what was a single team representing the city, people of Milan have decided upon their parameters to worship the team of their choice and have stuck by them for nearly a century now.
During the course of separation, the Milan bourgeoisie – a popular term for European middle class – endeared themselves to the Inter part of the Milanese football camaraderie whereas the working class chose to maintain their worship for AC Milan.
As things stand today, many of the theorems have reversed their suppositions and both the teams carry a characteristically distinct set of supporters, most of who were not even born when the big spilt happened. Many of them have inherited the traits for generations which has led them to be cheering for the club they do.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi presently owns AC Milan whereas the leftist business tycoon Massimo Morrati heads the Inter counterpart. Hence, the concepts of the economic classification forming the fan base have also been long eliminated. In the process of engineering the fan-base in the recent years, the concept of randomness has preceded above all. Most of the Milan or Inter fans today have just happened to be Milan or Inter fans. No real purpose. No specific design.
What has remained intact however, is the sentiment of the derby. No matter what logic do the fans of today follow, no matter what is the foundation of their passion, the zeal and enigma that this contest wears even today is no different from ever.
And tonight, as the two teams set to feature into 274th head-to-head clash at the San Siro, the whole European football fraternity fervidly awaits to see Samuel Eto’o outsmart Alessandro Nesta and Zlatan Ibrahimovic whirling quick, smart chips over Lucio.
TACTICAL BRIEF: AC MILAN
Momentum, form and consistency – all matter for nothing once the whistle is blown signalling the go-ahead in the event of these measures. Milan have lately been the team better off with results speaking in their favour, in the domestic circuit at least.
The potential candidates to occupy the Milan midfield have all done well in the limited chances presented to them. Matthieu Flamini is the ray of hope for a resurgent Rossoneri midfield and he has very much showed his strength in the previous two encounters where he started in the centre of the midfield.
Max Allegri finally appears to have caught the correct vein of a big club and is both utilizing and rotating his squad tactfully. A much needed break for Nesta during the midweek saw a new efficacious centre back being emerged in Mario Yepes. However, during a game of this nature Allegri would most probably choose not to experiment and would stick on to his two first-choice centre backs – Nesta and Silva.
Ignazio Abate has silenced his critics since that sensational draw against Real Madrid played at San Siro. The Italian international seems to have peaked his form and is rising on the right occasion. He has considerably improved over the last few matches and has been well supported by Gattuso while tracking back.
A fit Luca Antonini leaves no space for scrutiny for his manager while opting for the Left-Back position. The 28-year old has been the best player for the Red & Black this season and would be all raring to go lock horns with Inter’s right wing.
Ibrahimovic would heavily be the front-runner to slot into the role of a centre forward or if the situation demands, that of the support striker – the latter is the one he is much more effective in. Both Pato and Inzaghi picked injuries during the midweek fixtures but that wouldn’t be the cause for Allegri’s concern as he has another world class forward in Robinho at his disposal.
Pato is speculated to be out for six weeks and the Super Pippo may not return for the season after he ruptured into what is projected to be a fatal damage to his meniscus. What Allegri may take in his stride from this pair of bad news is, he would be able to offer Robinho a much needed playing time up front partnering the Swede.
Seedorf playing right behind the two strikers has gelled pretty handsomely in a role that is quite deep as compared to a classical trequartista. He may well be Allegri’s choice for the Derby ahead of club’s other veterans Gattuso and Ambrosini. The two should ideally be reduced to the starters of the lowly competitive fixtures but may play crucial role as effective substitutes during the games of this magnitude, given the amount of experience they posses at their helm.
IDEAL STARTING LINE-UP
Abbiati – Abate, Nesta, Silva, Antonini – Boetang, Pirlo, Flamini – Seedorf, Ibrahimovic, Robinho
TACTICAL BRIEF: INTER
Rafa Benitez has been the talk of the town ever since his arrival with last season’s treble winners. The same squad under his regime has not been able to live to the standards set by none but the team itself. The impetus level to carry the momentum of the last season looks to have gone out of reaches of the Spanish coach and the nature of the Italian game is demanding much more from the ex-Liverpool man than what met the eye initially.
Entering in this game, Inter have already been comprehensively beaten thrice since Benitez took over and have been restricted for frustrating draws on numerous occasions. Going into the derby, Inter face injuries haunting their cause and Benitez needs to come out with a remedial approach to surge his team’s dangling fortunes.
Samuel Eto’o is the heart and soul of this otherwise unemotional and stoic Inter side. The African sensation has already found the net more times than he did during the entire last season when he made his debut in the Italian football. Given Milito’s ill state of fitness, Benitez may maintain Eto’o playing centre forward causing all sorts of troubles to Milan’s heart of defence.
Brazilian Coutinho and the Frenchman Biabiany have been refreshing to watch, to say the least. Both the youngsters have the highest work-rate amongst the current Inter squad during the season. They have very well supported Samuel Eto’o’s cause demolishing the defence by assuring a decent supply chain for the Cameroonian.
Benitez however, would look to leave no space to expose for the likes of Boetang and Abate and hence may well choose Pandev over Coutinho for the game. Biabiany too may face the sword while retaining his position behind Eto’o, should Benitez opt for any alteration in the current design.
Defensive woes do not look too befitting given the character of last season’s treble winners. Walter Samuel’s season long injury has not helped the cause and it would be interesting to see if the Colombian veteran Ivan Cordoba can fit into the Argentine’s shoes and deliver the stellar performances over the course of the season.
Maicon too has looked so far a shadow of his own and an injury to the Brazilian will allow the Italian teen David Santone to feature into the role of Right Back. Christian Chivu and Lucio should reserve their places at Left Back and Centre Back respectively.
Skipper Javier Zanetti will have a pivotal role to play in the heart of midfield mostly accompanied by Dejan Stankovic in the absence of Cambiasso. Wesley Sneijder cannot afford to take any long in reclaiming his own self and live up to his reputation and potential. The Ballon D’Or favourite for the last season has so far looked disjointed and disinterested in the playmaker’s position. His fall in form has potentially hurt his team’s cause and his recapture of form would best poise Inter’s chances in the Derby and eventually in challenging for the Scudetto.
IDEAL STARTING LINE-UP
Cesar – Santone, Lucio, Cordoba, Chivu – Zanetti, Stankovic – Biabiany, Sneijder, Pandev – Eto’o
Tonight when the two meet at San Siro in what virtually is a home game for Inter, it would be the 202nd time that the two fierce local rivals would cross swords – discounting the friendly competitons which take the number to 273.
In the fixtures so far, Inter have held an upper hand marginalising their opponents with 71 wins in comparison to 69 of Milan. 61 games have ended squared. As things stand before the game, The Rossoneri may well be on their way to register a 70th win over Inter but the latter’s chances of moving to 72 look thin.
ALL THAT MATTERS
Three of Milan’s certain starters – Pirlo, Seedorf and Ibrahimovic – have all represented the Black & Blue at some point of time during their top flight career. Among the three, only the Swede is to face his old club for the first time since assuming the Red & Black jersey and with-in no time once the whistle would be blown, he would realize how a home turf can turn into an alien and unfriendly proximity with all the jeers and hooting fervently waiting for him to surface.