After two games of Serie A took place on Saturday, seeing Juventus going past Lazio 3-0 and AS Roma beat Atalanta 2-1, calcio fans will ready themselves for the classic derby della Madonnina, or the Milan derby as we call it.
It may no longer represent the dominant forces in Italian football but the Milan derby will always be special.
AC Milan and Inter Milan are lying 7th and 9th respectively in the Serie A table ahead of Saturday’s San Siro showdown with just a point separating the two clubs. Having been announced as Walter Mazzarri’s replacement last week, Mancini’s first goal is to mastermind a triumph at San Siro that would take the Nerazzurri above their city rivals in the table.
The most similar aspect of these two teams revolves around the fact that neither have great defending capacity, so it wouldn’t be surprising to have a fair amount of goals scored in this contest.
With injuries once again surrounding Rossoneri, it would be a uphill task for Filippo Inzaghi and his men to overcome Roberto Mancini’s men. Arguably Milan’s best player last season and a goal scorer in this same clash last season; Nigel De Jong has been ruled out with an hamstring problem that saw him sidelined during the international break. Alongside him Ignazio Abate, Alex are also set to miss the derby.
Though Milan’s captain Riccardo Montolivo has been included in the squad after recovering from a long term injury. Although the chances are bleak that he will start.
Inzaghi is most likely to field 4-2-3-1 with Ex Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari both starting as a pivot.
With Ignazio Abate ruled out and Daniele Bonera is suspended after two yellow cards saw him get sent off at Sampdoria, the back four will comprise of Adil Rami, Cristian Zapata, Philipe Mexes and Mattia De Sciglio who is most likely to captain his side tonight.
Only one of Giacomo Bonaventura or Keisuke Honda will start tonight with Jeremy Menez and Stephan El Shaarawy supporting them. Striker Fernando Torres is all set to play his first Milan derby, disappointing until now El Nino must perform well in order to keep his place secure in starting lineup.
Filippo Inzaghi talked to the press ahead of the Derby: “I hope that my players will make our fans proud in tomorrow’s game. I’m happy because they are practicing well and I hope the most important boost will come from the fans. I always focused especially on Milan, not only on the opponents. I’ll try to put my team in condition to play a great Derby. If Inter will be stronger, we’ll shake their hands, but it will be hard to be stronger than Milan tomorrow. We must bounce back after the game against Sampdoria, trying to fix the flaws and to enhance our virtues. We’ve prepared in the best possible way, the pitch will say who will be the strongest. It’s not an ordinary game, you don’t have to just play the Derby, you must win it. We respect Inter, but we want to give our fans a satisfaction. We want to win, we’ll do everything to win and perform well. We know that it won’t be easy, Derby is always wide open, but we want to win.”
On return of captain Riccardo Montolivo he added: “Montolivo has fully recovered, I thought about fielding him because he’s very well, but we must be cautious. We’ll miss some important players, but I’m sure that who will play will give his best, everybody is practicing with great seriousness, Mexes is an example. I’ve many alternatives: Zapata, Armero, Albertazzi, I’ll try understand the best solution to replace Alex. In these two days, I tried to improve our 4-2-4, but we can use also 4-3-3 like we’ve always done. I don’t have the arrogance to think that my tactic can change the result of a game, I try to understand who’s in better condition and field them. I’ve many alternatives in the midfield, I haven’t made a decision yet. I remember my derbies: I scored in the first one, the Champions League one was incredible because of the tension; it would be a dream to relive a game like that as a coach. Torres? His movements are adequate to our style, he also puts a lot of effort. We hope he’ll score, maybe tomorrow, because he can carry the whole team. Honda? We’ve many players upfront, but it’s not a problem.”
Going to other side of city, Roberto Mancini has his all resource ready for the showdown. The former Manchester City and Galatasaray boss takes over with Inter ninth in Serie A – a point and two places behind Milan.
However, Mancini has been pleased with what he has seen so far on his return to the club and urged his players not to pay too much attention to the table.
Roberto Mancini is a bit fuller in the face and the hair is less flappy then his first spell at the San Siro, which began ten years ago.
The local press are beside themselves with excitement and have spent all week discussing the scarf wearing tacticians rescue plan. Mancini has also vowed to bring back enthusiasm and enjoyment.
He wants the players to love their jobs again. The Nerazzurri will probably line-up with a 4-3-1-2 featuring a diamond and play attacking football to thrill the fans after the stodgy, grey era of recently axed Walter Mazzarri.
As it looks like, Mancini will go with 4-3-1-2 with Yugo Nagatomo, Andrea Ranocchia, Juan Jesus and Dodo at the back. As Nemanja Vidic is not upto his mark this season it is highly unlikely that Roberto Mancini will start him.
A midfield of Freddy Guarin, Kuzmanovic and Obi looks ideal for Nerazurri. Key player Matteo Kovacic will play in the hole just behind Argentinian duo Roberto Palacio and Mauro Icardi.
Matteo Kovacic will be the most deadly player on the field for this showdown as he keeps impressing Nerazurri throughout this season, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he turns out to be the best player on the field tonight. The Nerazzurri No. 10 can sparkle at the top of Mancini’s diamond and become Inter’s inspiration for years to come.
Certainly welcomed with open arms, Mancini is glad to be back at the club where he spent four years manning the sideline, and he views this derby as a prominent meeting between two hungry teams.
“I have the same good feelings I usually have going into a derby. It won’t be easy. Milan are a great team,” he said ahead of the derby. “I’ve inherited a team in good shape and we’ve been able to work well. Obviously both teams hope to win it but anything can happen in a derby. We mustn’t look at the league table at the moment. We just need to get points on the board.”
“It’s only a case that these two teams are a little behind this year, they both use to fight for great objectives. The mentality and the attitude to playing the game are the most important things. I’ve found a team in good conditions, we worked well. A little bit of emotion, when you return in a team where you’ve already been and you did well, is normal. I’ve already answered on the 2006 Scudetto, it’s an old topic for me. We need to focus on making points. I don’t even look at the standings right now.”
The ex-Italy international said he had been impressed by Thohir, adding his excitement about returning to the club where he won three Serie A titles and two Coppa Italias between 2004 and 2008.
“It’s normal to feel excited when you go back to a place where you’ve worked and been successful before,” Mancini added.
“I’ve spoken to president Thohir about all sorts of things and I got a really good impression. The president seems to be very passionate about Inter and that’s important.”
With San Siro sold out for the derby: 79.173 tickets has been sold. With an astonishing €3.324.594 (Serie A record) income generated.
- This will be 212th Milan Derby: the Nerazzurri lead by 76 wins to 74, with 62 draws.
- AC Milan have suffered the most defeats and conceded the most goals (223) in Serie A right against Inter.
- AC Milan won the last Milan Derby in Serie A (1-0) after being winless in the five previous matches against Inter (D1 L4).
- The last 12 league derbies between these two teams have seen 11 red cards: five picked up by the Rossoneri and six taken by the Nerazzurri.
- AC Milan are winless in their last four league clashes (D3 L1).
- Inter have won only two of their last seven Serie A games (D2 L3).
- The Nerazzurri are the team with the most goals conceded in the first 15 minutes of play (5) so far. (via Opta)
Possible starting lineup:
A.C Milan (4-2-3-1): Diego Lopez, Rami, Mexes, Zapata, De Sciglio, Essien, Muntari, Bonaventura, Menez, El Shaarawy, Torres.
Inter Milan (4-3-2-1): Handanovic, Nagatomo, Ranocchia, Juan Jesus, Dodo, Guarin, Kuzmanovic, Obi, Kovacic, Palacio, Icardi.
A.C Milan 2-1 Inter Milan