Derby d'Italia Matchup to Watch: Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs. Giorgio Chiellini

Danny PenzaSenior Writer INovember 20, 2008

Two of the most storied clubs in Italy will be butting heads when Inter Milan hosts Juventus Saturday night in a battle for the top spot in Serie A.

And as if this weekend's Derby d'Italia needed any more hype, two of the best footballers in the world will be going up against each other quite often at the San Siro.

Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini and Inter striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic have developed quite the rivalry considering they were teammates in Turin just three years ago.

Since he left for Inter Milan after Juve were demoted to Serie B in the summer of 2006, Ibrahimovic has become one of the top ranking players Bianconeri fans love to hate.

"Ibrahimovic? He is the best striker in Italy," Chiellini said Monday. "We will mark him and work together to stop him, it's not an individual challenge between us."

Whether it's true or not, the duel between these two world-class players will be one of the biggest key to his respective teams' success.

After being primarily a left winger his entire Serie A career with Fiorentina and now Juventus, Chiellini was forced into the center of the backline at the start of last season. His efforts in the 1-1 tie and Juve's 2-1 win against Inter and Ibrahimovic kept the big Sweede of the scoresheet and was the perfect way to remember his first season in the middle of the Juve defense.

Battling for every ball in the air, Chiellini won most, handing out bone-rattling challenges in the process. And aside from an forearm to the head of Ibrahimovic, the Italian international played the perfect game against his former teammate.

But Ibra is a different kind of animal this year. He's healthy and has been absolutely on fire this season under the guidance of Jose Mourinho. Just go watch the two goals he scored this past weekend against Palermo and you will see the current form he is on.

To say that Ibrahimovic is the center of Inter's offense would be an understatement. In a lineup that sees drastic changes every week, he is the constant, and the faith that Mourinho has shown in him has seen his game go to the next and most ridiculous level.

Add to the fact that the other members of Inter's strike force have yet to really get settled in Mourinho's 4-3-3 system and the battle between Chiellini and Ibrahimovic takes even more importance.

If the Italian shuts down the Sweede, does that mean he shuts down Inter's attack?

What we do know is this, two in-form players going against one another is always a good thing to watch.

In a game that means so much, this match up might be one of the biggest and most important of them all.

And in this game, it might be the most exciting as well.