San Siro, Milan, Italy
April 03, 2011; 00:15 AM, IST
There are only a handful of rivalries in World Football that can match the Milan derby. The two Milan giants are contrasting in every single way, and have been eternal rivals since the inception of Internazionale. Inter have got 18 Scudetto(five of which has come in the last five years) titles whilst Milan have 17 to their name. These two aren’t too far separated in the Domestic cup, as Milan have won four times and Inter five. However, on the European stage, Milan are way ahead(seven trophies) of their eternal rivals(three trophies). Having said that, Milan marched out of the European Cup, while Inter progressed to the quarter finals after a thrilling victory against Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena.
It has been a long time since these two have battled against each other for a Scudetto, which makes the occasion even more special from a football fan’s perspective. Milan are desperate to win the Scudetto, considering their dearth of titles in the recent past. The seven-time European Champions have been slated Ibra-Dependent, as the Swede has carried an aging side after his transfer from Barcelona. Yet, the big striker won’t be available for the biggest match of his season due to his suspension. Things haven’t been very fruitful for the Rossoneri, having failed to win in their last three matches in all competitions. This has led their rivals close the gap to just two points ahead of the derby. On the positive side for Milan, they boast a brilliant defensive record in the Serie A and have conceded just 22 goals all season. This could be a very influential factor on Saturday, and could well turn the result in Milan’s favour. Meanwhile, coach Allegri has stated that Saturday’s match is the biggest of his career.
Inter, on the other hand have looked like the team they were last season. The Nerazzurri have shown massive persistence following a disastrous first half of the season under Benitez. Ex-Milan player and manager Leonardo have injected some much needed freshness into the team; his guidance, coupled with Milan’s decline in form, has helped Inter revive their Scudetto chances, which seemed to be impossible in December when they were close to 15 points behind the league leaders. Inter have had their own problems on the defensive side, but they have been ruthless in attack, led by Samuel Eto’o; the Nerazzuri are scoring leaders in the Serie A with 56 goals. A win against Milan would be a massive psychological boost for the Nerazzurri, and they can virtually seal the title on Saturday considering they have the easier of runs in the title race from now. However, Leonardo will have second thoughts in his team selection, as his side play an equally important match on Tuesday in the Champions League against yet another German side – Schalke 04. Inter coach Leonardo has commented that The Derby will not decide the title.
Milan will be without their star man Ibrahimovic, after it was announced that the Swede will serve a four match suspension including the Milan Derby. Playmaker in chief Andrea Pirlo will be unavailable because of his injury. Abbiati will guard the posts for the Rossoneri, with Nesta and Thiago Silva supporting him in central defense. Abate and Antonini will take up the full back positions.
Of late, Milan have been light in midfield, but they will have the ever strong Gattusso to break the play in a central defensive role. This will leave Boateng to run from box to box and support his attackers and defenders when needed. In the absence of Pirlo, Allegri might pass the playmaker role to the Dutchman Seedorf. This leaves another Dutchman Van Bommel to link the play between his defense and attack.
Milan will be hoping that the Brazilian duo of Pato and Robinho can bail them out in the absence of Ibrahimovic. Neither of them are an out and out striker and are roamers, so either one of them has to sacrifice themselves for the team and stay disciplined. This most likely would be done by Pato, as “The Duck” is taller and can hold the ball better than Robinho which leaves the ex-Real Madrid forward to assume a free role.
Possible Line-up (4-3-1-2): Abbiati; Abate, Nesta, Thiago Silva, Antonini; Gattuso, Van Bommel, Boateng; Seedorf; Pato, Robinho
Lucio is suspended, and will serve his ban in the Milan Derby. Samuel is still out with injury. Doubts have been raised over Chivu’s fitness, after he had a knock during International duties. However, he should be ready by Saturday and could partner Ranocchia in defense. Leonardo will most likely field the experience of veteran Zanetti in the left back role ahead of Nagatomo, whilst Maicon will take up the right back position.
In midfield, Motta and Cambiasso will be the ball winning midfielders and Stankovic will look to provide the width in a 3 man midfield. Sneijder will be the architect and Inter will look to the Dutchman to provide the spark and dictate the match by supplying the ammunition to Eto’o and Pazzini.
Eto’o will most likely play a free role behind Pazzini, and will look to drift in from the wings as well. Pazzini will have a huge task in shaking the Milan defense and holding the ball until support arrives.
Possible Line-up(4-3-1-2): Julio Cesar; Maicon, Ranocchia, Cordoba, Zanetti; Thiago Motta, Cambiasso, Stankovic; Sneijder; Pazzini, Eto’o
Both teams go into this fixture with a lot at stake. Milan are the league leaders and are at home. But considering their current form and a solid defense, they wouldn’t be too sad to sit back and take all the pressure from Inter and hit the Nerazzurri on the break.
As both teams are possibly fielding a 4-3-1-2 formation, a cancellation of creativity in the midfield can be expected. One can expect Gattuso and Van Bommel to breath down Sneijder’s neck and stop the Dutchman from being involved in the game. This would leave Stankovic and Motta to provide the support for their strikers, unless Sneijder drops back like he did against Bayern. Milan will have their own strength with Seedorf, but the Dutchman will be wrangled all the way by Cambiasso. However, both the sides will be vulnerable on the flanks as Maicon and Zanetti can harm Milan while Abate and Antonini can hurt Inter. The four forwards will rarely have any space or time, which means the striker who capitalizes on the most of the presented opportunities will go on to help his team win the game.
Inter are vulnerable in defense but Milan aren’t sharp in attack without Ibra. On the contrary, Inter are ruthless in attack whilst Milan are solid in defense. It all depends on the power of Eto’o and the resistance of Nesta and co. This match could well be a game of two halves, and the team which thrives under pressure will go on and take the plaudits.
1. Milan have the highest number(104) of Derby victories whilst Inter have won 95 times.
2. There hasn’t been a draw in the last 12 Milan Derbies with Inter having 7 victories.
3. Inter have the best offensive(56 goals) record whilst Milan have the best defensive(22 goals) record this season.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Alexandre Pato (Milan)
“The Duck” hasn’t been at his best this season for the Rossoneri, yet, he will possess a big threat to the Nerazzurri going forward. The Brazilian has appeared only 17 times for Milan in the Serie A but has still managed to score 11 goals. If Milan are to win this fixture, in the absence of Ibrahimovic, Pato has to be the torch-bearer in attack for Milan against the vulnerable Inter defence.
Samuel Eto’o (Internazionale)
If there was one player the Nerazzurri faithful can count on, it has to be the Cameroonian Eto’o. The ex-Barcelona forward has been scintillating all season and has dragged his team single-handedly to the promising position they sit in currently. Not surprisingly, Eto’o is the top scorer for his team, and if he does manage to replicate his performance from Bayern against Milan, it will be virtually impossible for Milan to cope with the powerful striker.
Milan 1-1 Inter
In the last 12 Milan derbies, there hasn’t been a draw. Such has been the desire of both the teams to oust each other. However, this match could well break that pattern. Milan have the home support, whilst Inter have the form to win. It all depends on how both the teams approach the game. Considering Milan have the higher stakes here sitting in pole position, they might well end up parking the bus and letting the Nerazzurri come to them and hurt them on the break.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST