The stage is set for El Shaarawy and Coutinho to star in the Milan derby

The Italian and Brazilian youngster will be closely watched to see if they can prove their mettle in one of the biggest matches of their careers.

The Milan Derby is one of the most intense matches in the world of football. These two legendary sides have given the fans so much entertainment over the years whenever they step onto the magnificent San Siro pitch. Maldini, Baresi, Bergomi, Pirlo, Seedorf, Zanetti, Nesta,Milito are just some of the names that have been associated with every Milan derby of late.

But now the tide has changed. The Milan sides have been hit by an acute financial crunch which has seen them turn to lesser known players and youth academy products, something that was never associated with the clubs for a decade.

Stephan El Shaarawy, was signed in 2011 by AC Milan from Genoa. The Italian-Egpytian’s capture was big news as he was one of those outrageous talents in Italy that come along very rarely. Milan’s signing signaled a change in their stance towards the composition of their side. A side that was in no shortage of domestic and European experience had begun to realize that the famous Milan Old Guard would not be around forever to bail them out of dire straits.

Milan's Defensive rock: Nesta

The Evergreen Clarence Seedorf

El Shaarawy was way down the pecking order in the Milan striking department. Back then, Milan had the power and guile of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the trickery of Robinho, the injury prone Alexandre Pato and the evergreen Pippo Inzaghi. How this youngster would ever get any regular playing time was a mystery.

However he proved to be a livewire on the field and this influenced the club's decision to keep him instead of loaning him out. This eventually fructified this season as El Shaarawy has lead the line for Milan in the absence of Ibrahimovic, who has joined PSG over the summer. Having scored five goals in eight appearances which included a belter of a goal against Udinese and a mazy run to score against Zenit St Petersburg in the Champions League. He will be sure to start the game to trouble a suspect Inter defence.

El Shaarawy's goal against Udinese was sublime.

For every Milan great, there has been a rival at Inter. For a Franco Baresi, there was Giuseppe Baresi. For a Maldini, there was a Zanetti. For an Ibrahimovic, there was a Milito. The present day Milan and Inter are on the same page as Inter possess a Brazilian wonderkid in Phillipe Coutinho to rival Milan’s El Shaarawy.

Coutinho joined Inter from Vasco Da Gama in Brazil in 2010. He was hailed by the Inter hierarchy as the club’s future star. The attacking midfielder justified those statements by putting in impressive performances each time he was on the pitch. His through ball to Samuel Eto'o during their emphatic victory over Bayern Munich in the Champions League of 2010-11 was just a glimpse of what this boy could do.

Coutinho was sent out on a short loan to Spanish club Espanyol in January 2012. He was in sublime form as he scored five goals in sixteen appearances for the club. Back in Italy, a change of guard was in order as interim coach Andrea Stramaccioni was one to favour youth over household names and this was the perfect opportunity for Coutinho to prove himself to the coach and establish himself as a first team regular.

Coutinho has not disappointed whenever he has stepped onto the pitch

He won the player of Trofeo TIM Trophy and also scored the winning goal in the final against Juventus in the pre-season.

The 20 year old has repaid the faith shown in him by the young Inter coach and is in the running for a start in the Milan Derby. If he can maintain the impressive form he has shown so far and showcase it in the most important match for any Inter or Milan player, rest assured, Inter can be satisfied with the investment made in the young Brazilian.

Both El Shaarawy and Coutinho are top talents and have scored in many Serie A games. But a player is judged upon on how he performs during the big games. And it doesn’t get bigger than the Milan derby for these talented youngsters. A solid performance in this match and it will be the beginning of a new era for both these glorious Italian clubs.

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