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The latest meeting between Inter and AC Milan may well be the last chance for some to avoid an early exit from their respective clubs ahead of the January transfer window

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By Kris Voakes | International Football Correspondent

The Milan derby is usually a fixture which carries so much importance - not only in Italy, but also across the world. This weekend's clash between Inter and AC Milan is set to fly under the radar more than usual, though, with their positions in the Serie A table speaking of two clubs struggling to have their desired impact on the league's top spots.

However, it will remain as big a match as ever to the supporters of Lombardy's respective giants, while some of the players who could feature are set for one of the biggest games of their lives for quite different reasons.

With the January transfer window the next thing on each club's agenda following Sunday night's main event, there are a whole host of players on either side who may only have 90 minutes to secure their futures before the market chiefs start their latest round of wheeling and dealing.

Below we look at five of the players who will have more than city pride to play for in the latest Derby della Madonnina.

CHRISTIAN ABBIATI


He may have departed early from last week's clash with Roma due to a stomach problem, but Christian Abbiati needs to play - and play well - in Sunday's derby if he is to extend his Milan career beyond 2013-14.

The 36-year-old announced this week that if the Rossoneri do not extend his contract in the summer then he will retire, and that prospect looks increasingly likely. With Gabriel getting first-team football under his belt for the first time during this campaign and constant rumours regarding a move for Genoa's Mattia Perin, Milan look ready to finally move on from the former Juventus shot-stopper.

But a big performance in a Milan derby might make the club hierarchy think again, potentially keeping Abbiati in a Milan shirt - and in football - beyond the end of the current season.

ISHAK BELFODIL


When Ishak Belfodil moved from Parma to Inter in the summer, he did so with a huge reputation behind him. It seemed strange to many at the time, and baffles most people today. The Nerazzurri appeared to be putting faith in the Algerian's potential, but the signs are that his excellent first half to last season with Parma was the exception that proved the rule.

It was his spell of seven goals in the first five months of 2012-13 along with his big, bustling presence which persuaded Inter to part with €7.5m and release the rights to Antonio Cassano. But Belfodil has now scored only one goal in 11 months, with that coming against doomed Palermo in May while still playing for the Crociati. In fact, but for those first five months with Parma, that goal in Sicily is the only league goal of Belfodil's career to date.

He did recently net once in the 3-2 Coppa Italia win over Trapani, but a strike in the Milan derby would carry infinitely more weight heading into a January transfer window which could really test Inter's faith in the 21-year-old.

ZDRAVKO KUZMANOVIC


After his January switch from Stuttgart, Zdravko Kuzmanovic was a regular in Andrea Stramaccioni's first-team squad during the second half of Inter's ill-fated 2012-13 season, but he has not enjoyed the same prominence under Walter Mazzarri.

He started the opening game of the season, exiting the clash with Genoa at San Siro after 51 minutes with the game tightly poised at 0-0. The Nerazzurri went on to win 2-0 and 'Kuz' has seen just 30 minutes of action since, as a substitute against Verona when the game was already won.

The Serbian had a decent run in Italy during his spell with Fiorentina, with his three-and-a-half years in Germany with Stuttgart helping to increase his reputation, but it is fair to say that his Inter career so far has not gone to plan. Should any kind of offer come in for the 47-cap midfielder, the Beneamata would be very likely to accept.

ALESSANDRO MATRI


It is fair to say that there were more than a few raised eyebrows in the summer when Milan - a club still purporting to be dealing in cost-cutting exercises and young prospects - splashed out €11 million on 29-year-old Juventus reserve Alessandro Matri.

Four months on, the signing makes little more sense, with the former Cagliari man having not started a single game for the Rossoneri since mid-October. Since then he has scored his only Milan goal to date as a substitute against Parma, but he remains very much on the periphery of the first-team squad.

As clubs search around for answers to short-term problems in the January window, now may be the best chance for Milan to get any kind of monetary return on their misguided investment, and should they receive a bid which comes anywhere near matching their layout then the club would be foolish to turn it down. A star turn in the derby might be enough to make them think twice, however.

PHILLIPE MEXES


With French loan signing Adil Rami becoming available in January, compatriot Phillipe Mexes looks to be the man most likely to drop out of the first-team picture.

Having joined the club immediately after the 2010-11 title-winning campaign, the former Roma defender has gradually seen his stock fall during his three seasons in Lombardy. Once considered a first-choice pick alongside Thiago Silva, he currently finds himself scrambling for a spot behind Daniele Bonera and Cristian Zapata at a time when his reputation has dropped markedly.

Add in the arrival of Rami - on whom Milan will have an option to buy in the summer - and Mexes' position at San Siro diminishes even further, meaning a January move or agreement regarding an end-of-season switch cannot be ruled out unless he takes whatever chance he is given to shine on Sunday.

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