San Siro, Milan
Saturday, May 4, 18:45 Hrs GMT
AC Milan will be fighting to stay in Europe next season when they play host to cross-town rivals Inter in this weekend’s derby. The Milan derby has lost much of its sheen in the recent years but now, with a place in Europe, both factions will surely tear into each other. With this Serie A season coming to an end soon, both the teams knows the value of three points now more than ever.
On the other hand, Internazionale are presently lying fifth in the table and they look set to play in Europe next season should they win the rest of their matches. With a six point difference between these two teams, Inter obviously holds the upper hand.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Milan will be missing the likes of Birsa and Saponara due to injury for this match. For the first time this season, almost the whole of the Milan first team is available for selection and it will one welcome headache for Seedorf, who had received much flak for the loss to Roma last weekend. El Shaarawy might not make the bench this time and it he fails to do so, it might be a big blow to his World Cup hopes.
Milan saw their unbeaten run come to an end last week and rightly so to Roma – a side which has radically changed for the first time a ball was kicked this season. Going gaga over their loss to Roma will not do any good to Milan, who are a much-weakened side as compared to the side from the capital. Not only do they have a stable management in place, they also have players who can back it up with solid performances week-in and week-out. Seedorf’s position as head coach has come under much scrutiny in the recent weeks with both parties making inconclusive statements in the media. While the unwarranted interview has put Seedorf in the spotlight, it only goes to show the deep distrust and communication gap present in the management board at Milan. Berlusconi and Galliani will surely have a meeting once this season ends about Seedorf and his performance. One only hopes he does not get the same treatment as Allegri got last season.
Seedorf will field a 4-2-3-1 formation in this match with Abbiati under the bar. The back-line will be formed by De Sciglio on the right, Constant on the left with Bonera and Mexes forming the central defensive pair. The holding midfielders for this match will be De Jong and Montolivo. Montolivo’s recent interview showed that even though there are turmoils all over Milan, the side is united and that they always have the backing of Seedorf. The club captain reflected on a horrible season and also spoke that just winning this derby will not count much if they fail to reach their objectives.
The midfield will be formed by Poli on the right, Taarabt on the left with Kaka playing through the middle. Balotelli will be lone striker in this match. With Prandelli keeping a close eye on the outcome of this match, Balotelli will be required to keep his cool and perform to the optimum in this upcoming derby.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Abbiati(GK); De Sciglio, Bonera, Mexes, Constant; De Jong, Montolivo; Poli, Kaka, Taarabt; Balotelli
Inter will be miss Juan Jesus, Ricardo Alvarez due to injury and Jonathan due to suspension for this match. Inter’s season has been a mixed bag so far, with as many as 15 draws sneaking up on their 14 victories, leaving them fifth in the Serie A table. Although their last defeat came in late March, Inter have been defeated by teams such as Atalanta and Genoa, thereby proving that if they have an off day, their opponents will run away with the match. However, what has been heartwarming in those scenarios is the fact that Inter have managed to claw their way back and draw most of their matches. Even Galliani have gone on record saying that Inter will start this derby as favorites.
Palacio and Icardi have been the top performers for Inter this season with the pair notching up 23 goals so far. Inter have had a more or less settled line-up this season, with the back three being used in every one of their matches. They are extremely strong in creating chances through individual skills, attacking down the wings, defending set pieces and stealing the ball away from their opposition. They also prefer playing a lot of through balls and are quite skilled in finishing off their chances. However, they are weak in counter attacks, although that is something they will not be losing their sleep over, especially against a side like Milan.
Inter will deploy a 3-5-2-with Handanovic in goal. The back-line will be formed by Campagnaro on the right, Rolando on the left with Samuel playing at the center of defense. The midfield will be formed by D’Ambrosio and Hernanes on the right, Kovacic and Nagatomo on the left with Cambiasso at the center. The forward line will see Palacio pairing up with Icardi.
Probable Starting Line-up (3-5-2): Handanovic(GK); Campagnaro, Samuel, Rolando; D’Ambrosio, Hernanes, Cambiasso, Kovacic, Nagatomo; Palacio, Icardi
Player to Watch Out For
Balotelli (AC Milan)
A lot has been said and written about the troubled Milan superstar in the recent weeks – and none of them has been even a little bit helpful to him or his teammates. From accusations of not playing to his full potential to blaming him for only focusing on increasing his bank balance, Balotelli has heard a lot since his performance against Atletico in the Champions League midweek clash. And yet Balotelli is seventh in the leading goal-scorer’s chart this season, with only a goal behind Palacio, who is the leading scorer for Internazionale. Milan knew this Balotelli when they took him from Manchester City sometime back and Milan knows this present ‘angry’ Balotelli too, who once set fire crackers in his bathroom. The turmoils at Milan have spread to all levels possible and the players are feeling most of the brunt along with the coach and the only way Balotelli can stop his detractors is by scoring in matches like these. If everything falls in place for Milan, maybe we can finally get to see Balotelli’s famous ‘one-finger-on-the-lips’ celebration.
Milan 1 – 1 Inter
This will be Milan’s match to win and Inter’s to lose. With both the teams fighting for a place in Europe next season, neutral observers will undoubtedly say that it is Inter who holds the upper hand in this battle, but Milan will be more than eager to compensate the loss of a place in the Champions League with a place in the Europa League. At the end, it might come down who wants it more, but the match is most likely to end in a stalemate.