Inter Milan vs. AC Milan: 4 Key Battles to Watch

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentFebruary 21, 2013

Inter Milan vs. AC Milan: 4 Key Battles to Watch

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    Inter Milan supporters tuned into the AC Milan’s UEFA Champions League first leg against Barcelona hoping Lionel Messi would run riot—that didn’t happen, and here are the four key battles to watch in the Derby della Madonnina.

    The Nerazzurri have only won one game from their last five league matches, whereas the Rossoneri have won four of their last five Serie A games.

    Comment below with what you think the result will be. 

Andrea Stramaccioni vs. Massimiliano Allegri

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    When Tiziano Crudeli mimicked Marco Tardelli's crazed, euphoric and fanatical celebration, somewhere in Milan, Andrea Stramaccioni uttered the word vaffanculo as he watched Sulley Muntari calmly slot the ball past Víctor Valdés. 

    What was supposed to be a self-indulgent act of schadenfreude ended in despair, anxiety and depression for Stramaccioni, who knows he'll be fired by a trigger-happy Massimo Moratti should Inter Milan replicate another shambolic display in the Milan derby. 

    Instead of facing a disheveled AC Milan still trying to pick up the pieces after a hammering by Barcelona, Andrea's Nerazzurri side will be up against a buoyant, confident and unified Rossoneri team following their unexpected win over the Catalonian giants.

    Stramaccioni strikes me as a bright young manager, but my goodness, he makes some nonsensical tactical decisions. 

    Fredy Guarín has a 30 percent shot accuracy, gives the ball away 24 percent of the time he tries to pass and lacks the guile of a trequartista—but he's Inter's No. 10. 

    Playing Zdravko Kuzmanović, who isn't an elite ball-winner, in front of the back line is fraught with peril.

    Andrea signing Tommaso Rocchi, who not only offers nothing from a productivity standpoint but seemingly can't run, is another facepalm moment for Interisti.

    The biggest indictment on Stramaccioni is after 10 months, we still don't know what he's trying to do at the club.

    It isn't a free-flowing attacking style to suggest he's trying to incorporate an aesthetic brand of football. 

    There're so many defensive breakdowns that you question his ability to instill positional and tactical discipline in his side, presuming he's going for a more pragmatic methodology akin to José Mourinho and Helenio Herrera.  

    Is it three at the back? Oh no, we're going with four, or...is it three?

    Let's play full-backs as wing-backs, centre midfielders as pivots, a box-to-box midfielder as a trequartista—it's as if Andrea is trying to say: "look at me!" with all these inventive but flawed outside-the-box thinking. 

    On the other hand, Massimiliano Allegri is basking in the glory of tactically outmaneuvering a novice in Jordi Roura, who spent the waning minutes of the game thinking of excuses to use as opposed to making in-game adjustments, i.e. throwing on Cristian Tello—Barça's very own Christophe Lemaitre—as a super-sub to inject some much needed incisiveness to a uncharacteristically abject Barcelona team. 

    Congrats AC Milan. Thoroughly deserved win. We've disrespected the art of defending for so long to not deserve this.

    — Messi Left Foot (@messileftfoot) February 20, 2013

    It was a defensive masterpiece from Allegri's Milan side but there's something about Cristián Zapata's languid defending, which could hurt AC Milan in the derby. 

    Ignazio Abate or Mattia De Sciglio? I like De Sciglio more, but Abate was on-song vs. Barça, so you should reward his performance by giving him a start against Inter. 

    Why not just play MDS at left-back? Well, Kevin Constant has been a beast in that position, so you want to keep him there since he's worked so hard to make the transition from mediocre midfielder to pretty good left-back in such a short space of time. 

    Yes, Milan's defending was resolute up against Barcelona, but they won't be approaching the Derby della Madonnina with the same mentality. 

    Conceding three goals after 30 minutes in the Roma game and letting Lazio net three times in 24 minutes suggests that the Rossoneri back line is prone to self-exploding like Inter. 

    The key point is, which defence will crack first? 

Mario Balotelli vs. Inter Milan's Back Line

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    Former Inter Milan defender Marco Materazzi revealed that Mario Balotelli turned up to an Inter training session with red and black socks, and Matrix cut them up. 

    Having worn an AC Milan shirt as an Inter Milan player and telling people he was a Milanista, Mario is now officially part of the Rossoneri. 

    He's also in a relationship with model Fanny Neguesha, who has filled the void left by former flame Raffaella Fico, the mother of Balotelli's baby girl. 

    Balotelli seems so happy back in Italy, and that wasn't the case at Manchester City, where an increasingly frustrated father figure in Roberto Mancini was fed up with the Italian striker's antics. 

    It all culminated in an embarrassing training-ground bust-up between the two. Twenty-six days later, Mario was sold to Milan. 

    He shrugged off Paolo Berlusconi's racist jibe (brother of Silvio) and has scored four times in his last three games. 

    If Inter's defence can make Fiorentina's underachieving Adem Ljajic look like the second coming of Dragan Jovanović, you'd hate to think what an in-form Balotelli with the right frame of mind could do to the Nerazzurri. 

    Mario once crashed Andrea Stramaccioni's press conference, and on the weekend, the striker has a chance to send Andrea's career crashing to the ground.

Fredy Guarín's Role vs. AC Milan's Midfield

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    "Fredy Guarín is a threat from long range..."

    The Colombian has scored four league goals from 67 shots and fails to convert 91.3 percent of his chances. 

    Guarín has more yellow cards than assists in Serie A this season and is a misfit as the trequartista.

    His performances in the UEFA Europa League against moderate opposition (and that's putting it lightly) give false hope that he can be entrusted with attacking responsibilities. 

    Fredy is just too inconsistent, though if Sulley Muntari starts for AC Milan, he's the one weak link that Fredy could take advantage of. 

    The Ghanaian midfielder is prone to lapses in concentration and habitually gives up the ball when pressured. 

    The reason why Andrea Stramaccioni plays Guarín in the No. 10 role is so he can press the opposing midfielders or stop ball-playing centre-backs from taking the ball out of defence. 

Stephan El Shaarawy to Make a Point vs. Inter Milan

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    AC Milan's trident for the future will be M'Baye Niang (18), Mario Balotelli (22) and Stephan El Shaarawy (20). 

    Inter Milan's forward ranks are depleted of youth.

    How will 33-year-old Diego Milito recover from a potentially career debilitating injury

    Rodrigo Palacio, 31, is a handy option as a starter or an impact sub, but he has no upside. 

    Antonio Cassano (30) is the only game-changer Inter possess right now because of his propensity to finish his chances and create something out of nothing. 

    As I stated last October, one of the risks you take with signing Antonio is that he will leave you high and dry when things don't turn out well, just like a gold digger packing up her bags and leaving when she finds out her sugar daddy is being charged for masterminding a Ponzi scheme (via B/R): "Cassano forced transfers away from Roma, Real Madrid, Sampdoria and AC Milan—history suggests that he will make a run for it if the situation at Inter deteriorates." 

    Milan's No. 92 is SES, who has scored 15 goals from a left forward role this season, one more than Palacio and Cassano combined. 

    Stephan showed how selfless he can be as he played as an auxiliary left sided defender, constantly tracking Dani Alves and Pedro. 

    El Shaarawy also created what could be the pivotal goal when he dinked the ball towards Sulley Muntari, who scored Milan's second against Barcelona. 

    SES will be given a less restrictive role come Sunday, so expect the 20-year-old Italian international to combine brilliantly with Super Mario. 

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    Statistics courtesy of WhoScored.comSquawka and Fox Soccer

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