Milan Derby 2013: Prediction, Preview and Star Names in Inter vs. AC Milan Clash

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistDecember 18, 2013

KakaGabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

This Sunday's Milan derby will be the second year in a row that Inter and Milan will clash at Christmastime with the Rossoneri in a lower league standing than their San Siro rivals.

While neither club is thriving among Serie A's hierarchy of late, however, the fixture loses none of its significance: two of Italy's titans once again coming together in an attempt to procure bragging rights until they clash next.

For fifth-place Inter, this weekend is a chance to show some conviction in pursuit of the Scudetto title, proving to new owner Erick Thohir that it would be worth making some squad investments this January.

One very significant difference for the "hosts," however, will be that their stand shall be closed on Sunday, as detailed by Italian football expert Tancredi Palmeri:

For Massimiliano Allegri's Milan, currently lurking in the 11th spot, it's a chance to turn the season around, not to mention scrape together some much-needed dignity.

Looking ahead to the encounter, find a breakdown of which players are worth keeping an eye on, as well as a prediction for the Milan encounter.

Inter Player to Watch: Rodrigo Palacio

Inter's top scorer this season with nine goals, Rodrigo Palacio has coped well with the additional striking opportunities afforded to him this season, reigning up top and leading his club to boasting the best attack in Serie A right now.

MILAN, ITALY - DECEMBER 08:  Rodrigo Palacio of FC Internazionale Milano celebrates his goal during the Serie A match between FC Internazionale Milano and Parma FC at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on December 8, 2013 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Get
Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

On numerous occasions this season, Allegri's side have found themselves undone against the focal attackers of their opponents: Alberto Gilardino making the difference for Genoa, Lionel Messi showing Milan up in the Champions League and Antonio Cassano helping Parma claim a win over his former club.

Unless some incredible response can be mustered by the Milan defence this weekend, Inter have every chance of extending their Serie A scoring run to 10 consecutive games on Sunday, Palacio as likely as any other to provide the difference.

Milan Player to Watch: Cristian Zapata

MILAN, ITALY - DECEMBER 16:  Cristian Zapata of AC Milan (L) celebrates scoring the first goal during the Serie A match between AC Milan and AS Roma at San Siro Stadium on December 16, 2013 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

After scoring in the 2-2 draw with Roma earlier this week, it's good to see that Cristian Zapata is getting some extracurricular activities into his schedule, but it's the defensive priorities that the Colombian should be fretting about.

Save for missing one game through suspension, Zapata has played every minute of Milan's 2013/14 league campaign; no other player has featured more.

However, with just three clean sheets in his 15 outings for the side, the South American isn't holding up one very particular aspect of his side of the bargain.

There would be no better time for Zapata to assume the leadership role than this Sunday, where the 27-year-old's influence at the back is the strongest Allegri can call upon and potentially the difference in what result his team can take.

Prediction: Inter 3-1 Milan