The Milan derby on Sunday evening promises to be hugely competitive and equally entertaining…
Resurrecting Their Credentials
Italian and European champions Inter have struggled under coach Rafael Benitez this season. Reasons are aplenty but the crux is that the Nerazzurri are not as formidable as last term, either in Italy or in Europe.
Heading into the Derby della Madonnina on Sunday evening, the five-time running Italian champions find themselves fourth in Serie A with 20 points from 11 matches, three fewer than city-rivals Milan. Inter’s form too has been poor this month. After losing to Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 at White Hart Lane in the Champions League, they were held to successive 1-1 draws by Brescia and Lecce in the league.
Inter’s defence has found it tough to cope at times, although having conceded just six times in the league they do have the best defensive record in the division. Up front modest form and injuries have impeded star striker Diego Milito from invoking his goalscoring prowess of last season, resulting in Inter netting just 13 times in 11 league fixtures, four less than ninth-placed Palermo. Inter’s home form has been stuttering as they have drawn three of their last five games in all competitions at San Siro.
Nevertheless, Inter have proved themselves to be the champions of the Milan derby for a while now as they have won this fixture on the past three occasions. Benitez’s men will know that a victory will see them draw level on points with the Rossoneri. A defeat, however, will push the Biscione six points off the pace.
Cynics may still hold reservations about Milan’s chances of winning the Scudetto this season but with the rest of the title challengers suffering from inconsistency, Massimiliano Allegri’s side are very much in with a chance to reclaim the championship they last won in 2004.
Heading into Sunday’s match, Milan know that they will go as many as six points ahead of arch-rivals Inter if they defeat them. At the moment the Diavoli are in pole position on 23 points, a point clear of second-placed Lazio. Midweek’s 3-1 defeat of Palermo was Milan’s sixth victory in seven league matches.
Milan have struggled at the back and have conceded 11 goals in as many games in the league. To put this into perspective, the former European champions have conceded more than Parma, who are level on points with third-from-bottom Bologna. However, the Milanese giants have been prolific up front - 20 goals in 11 league fixtures mean that they are the second highest scorers in the division after Juventus.
However, Allegri’s side will have to tighten up at the back and also rediscover their big-game mentality. Milan have to failed to win against any of the big sides they have played so far this season – they drew with Lazio in Rome, lost to Juventus at San Siro and also failed to conjure up a win in either game against Real Madrid in the Champions League. A derby’s a special occasion and club supremo Silvio Berlusconi will demand his team to exhibit a special performance.
Sulley Muntari, MacDonald Mariga, Thiago Motta, David Suazo, Maicon and Walter Samuel are unavailable for the derby because of injuries. Benitez is likely to opt for a 4-3-1-2 formation that will have Wesley Sneijder as the creator-in-chief and playing just behind the two strikers Diego Milito and Samuel Eto’o.
Alexandre Pato, Filippo Inzaghi and Massimo Oddo are out injured for the clash with Inter. Latest reports suggest that Ronaldinho and Clarence Seedorf will be the two attacking midfielders deployed behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who will be playing on his own up front.