Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan
Sunday, October 7, 2012; 18:45 Hrs GMT
The biggest derby in Italy
Barring Derby d’Italia which technically is not a derby, the Milan derby or the Derby della madonnina is the biggest draw in Italy and certainly one of the biggest ones played all over Europe. The current season’s first edition kicks off on Sunday 7th October. The derby is contested by two of the most successful clubs in Italy (Juventus completing the list). Historically this game has seen some real classic encounters between the two teams who in most seasons are genuine Scudetto contenders.
Sad story for both teams
Both teams are unwinding from a decade of excesses, where they ran up huge losses chasing football glory. With both owners starting to disengage themselves from the club and also with the impending Financial Fair Play norms, investments into playing squads have dried up, resulting in serious deterioration in squad quality and performances.
This season would be the first time in more than a decade when neither team is expected to mount a serious Scudetto challenge. More ominously neither set of fans (the realistic bunch that is) really expect things to change soon. The pessimism amongst the fans can be gauged by the fact that Milan hierarchy had to make an appeal to the fans to show up for the Derby.
Quality wise, this is without doubt the weakest Milan squad in a long time. This Inter squad too is one of the weakest, though the Ronaldo-less squad circa 98-2000 was equally bad, another reason why fans aren’t really enthusiastic about this game.
Both the teams are fighting their own share of demons within. First was the San Siro hoodoo, which was finally vanquished by both teams last week. Then there is the case of managers. Allegri is fighting to save his job, irrespective of what the Milan hierarchy says, while Stramaccioni is fighting to prove that he is worthy of the task given to him by Moratti. Then there is this Cassano vs. Pazzini angle. Both of them have a point to prove to their former employers and will be looking to play the protagonist’s role in the game.
Team News & Tactical Brief
In comparison to the first few weeks of the new season, Milan have considerably stabilized and the latest away win over Zenit in the Champions League should boost their confidence to the levels required to face the arch rivals on Sunday. Having lost both the derby fixtures during the last season, Milan cannot afford to lose the bragging rights anymore and Allegri does realize a win here should take the morale of the dressing room to another level altogether.
Milan have found it extremely difficult to settle down with the new squad and fans are hardly able to connect to this bunch of players. The current crop of players who in fact start games for Milan week in and week out, would not have even made it to the bench of the teams of past – such is the quality fans have always been used to watching at San Siro and their agitation against the management therefore cannot be called completely unwarranted.
Going into this game, Max Allegri has to ensure his players derived the required inspiration from the result in Russia. The senior players must rise to the occasion and set an example for the younger lot to step up. Christian Abbiati in particular was outstanding with his fantastic saves that let Milan guard the lead. That level of commitment and passion from the entire team might see Milan pull off a miracle.
The 4-3-1-2 setup is likely to be continued with Abate, Bonera, Zapata and Antonini forming the defensive line. The midfield should comprise Montolivo, De Jong and Nocerino while Massimo Ambrosini is certain to be introduced at some stage in the game. While De Jong will restrict himself to hold and win the ball assisting the centre backs, Montolivo will be the creative engine for Milan that creates one move after the other. Nocerino will advance the most of the three and should drift inside with the ball to create space for El Shaarawy on the left.
Emanuelson should initially slot into the Attacking Midfielder’s role behind the two forwards but since Pazzini relies a lot on width, a 4-3-3 variant is likely to take shape with Emanuelson forcing himself out on the right. Pazzini will start from the centre and much like Cassano, he has a point or two to prove in this game. But the man who matters the most for Milan is Stephan El Shaarawy who should start from left and lead the attacking charge. His goal scoring touch has been immense this season and at the same time he has been extremely instrumental in creating chances for his teammates in the final third.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-3-3): Abbiati; Abate, Bonera, Zapata, Antonini; Montolivo, De Jong, Nocerino; Emanuelson; Pazzini, El Shaarawy
Inter have been struggling to define their footballing identity. Away from home they have generally been good though not exactly fluent, playing without any pressure. The result, 6 wins out of 6 competitive games on the run so far this season. With the derby being an “away” game for Inter, the fans hope this trend continues. It is at home that the team has struggled, possibly due to pressure of performing before a home crowd, a new semi-artificial pitch and so on.
Inter have a young team, with about 5 players in the starting XI having just been signed in the summer (Handanovic, Silvestre, Pereira, Gargano and Cassano). Except for Handanovic and Cassano, the other three have struggled for consistency alternating between below par to good. In addition the coach has been experimenting with multiple formations, for the team to have a settled starting lineup. But all this is expected for a team going through a major overhaul.
While Inter might be in a slightly better shape going into the match, this is one game where all notions of form and squad quality go out of the window. Raw emotion will be driving the game and Interisti worldwide will hope for the “home” hoodoo to continue for this one game.
Andrea Stramaccioni has so far deployed variants of what is a 4-4-2. The big question of accommodating Sneijder and Cassano in the lineup is for the time being put to rest for the former being unavailable for the derby. Inter have started with three men in defence lately and the trend is expected to continue on Sunday. Ranocchia in particular has been fairly impressive in the new season while the ever reliable Walter Samuel – though slower than his own version of 2010 – adds solidity to the defence. The three man central defence should be completed by the young Brazilian Juan Jesus.
The midfield focuses greatly on adding width to the attack and with Maicon having parted ways with the club in the summer, skipper Javier Zanetti operates from the right wing. The core of the midfield should be formed by the two new signings Guarin and Gargano while the veteran Argentine Cambiasso will continue to play the anchor from the centre. Nagatomo on the left will be a continuous threat linking up brilliantly with the forwards.
Antonio Cassano has started to feel home at Inter ever so swiftly and his form is a real cause of concern for Massimiliano Allegri and the entire Milan camp. Fantantonio though, might face the hostility of Milan faithful but that will certainly not be a situation he will face for the first time in his life. Diego Milito loves to score against Milan and Allegri will pray Ignazio Abate better have some answers for the Argentine this time. Milan’s central defence has been extremely vulnerable so far and Milito would relish playing against their lack of organization.
Probable Starting Lineup (3-5-2): Handanovic; Ranocchia, Samuel, Juan; Zanetti, Guarin, Cambiasso, Gargano, Nagatomo; Cassano, Milito
- With Milan starting as hosts, the two teams have not drawn a derby since the 2004-05 season.
- Last season Inter won both the derby fixtures while Milan had a clean sweep over Inter during the previous season.
- This will be the 293rd edition of the derby with Milan having won 111 times against Inter’s 104.
Players To Watch Out For
Stephan El Shaarawy (Milan)
The young Italian forward has been the only bright spark for Milan in an otherwise disappointing season so far and should Milan salvage any hopes of a positive result here, El Shaarawy has to maintain the form he has enjoyed since the start of the season. He can unsettle the vulnerable looking Inter defence and earn an advantage for Milan.
The prodigal son has had a wonderful start to his career at Inter and has instantly earned praises from fans. His creativity can be the difference between the two sides and the fact he is well aware of the limitations of this Milan defence can only add to the trouble of his former side.
Milan 2-2 Inter
This should be a keenly fought contest and goals will be scored aplenty by both the teams. Milan might open the scoring but eventually Inter should be able to restore the balance at full time.
Blast From The Past
Written by Parth Pandya & Guest Author Arvind Balasubramanian