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Serie A Preview: Inter - Milan

Kick-Off: Sunday, January 24, 2010, 20:45 CET.
Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan.
Losing Control


At one stage in the season Inter looked head and shoulders above the others and out of sight of their rivals. But the four times running Italian champions haven't made an especially great start to the New Year and are just six points ahead of second-placed Milan, having played a game more.

At the moment the Nerazzurri have 46 points from 20 games. Their three league fixtures this month have resulted in two wins by a single-goal margin and a come-from-behind draw. This has allowed the Rossoneri to catch up with them and there is indeed a strong hint that the Scudetto race could be blown wide open should Jose Mourinho's side suffer a defeat at the Giuseppe Meazza on Sunday night.

In the corresponding fixture in Week 2 of Serie A this campaign, Inter ran out 4-0 winners. At the time they had just come from an embarrassing 1-1 draw with newly promoted Bari while Milan had observed Ronaldinho weave his magic against Siena to gain maximum points. The situation now is quite similar as the former Barcelona superstar was again at the heart of the destruction of Siena while Inter came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Bari away.

Stop Us If You Can

A victory in the Derby della Madonnina on Sunday and Milan could be within just three points of leaders Inter. And if they defeat Fiorentina in the game that they have in hand, then the Rossoneri could be level on points with the Nerazzurri and the Scudetto race would be back on track.

Milan's turnaround in fortunes has been as much encouraging as surprising. Written off by most pundits at the start of the season, Leonardo's side have recovered themselves so much so that they have suffered just one defeat since September in any competition. Milan have won all their four games this year in all competitions and are now seriously contemplating a run for the Serie A title.

David Beckham's arrival has allowed Leonardo more options and depth in the midfield while Marco Borriello's goals have compensated for the absence of Alexandre Pato. Ronaldinho has been on red hot form throughout the season and his nine goals and eight assists have made him arguably the best playmaker in Italian football in 2009-2010. A win against Inter isn't totally out of the picture.


FORM GUIDE


Inter

January 16 v Bari (A) - DREW 2-2 (Serie A)

January 9 v Siena (H) - WON 4-3 (Serie A)

January 6 v Chievo (A) - WON 1-0 (Serie A)

December 20 v Lazio (H) - WON 1-0 (Serie A)

December 16 v Livorno (H) - WON 1-0 (Coppa Italia)

Milan

January 17 v Siena (H) - WON 4-0 (Serie A)

January 13 v Novara (H) - WON 2-1 (Coppa Italia)

January 10 v Juventus (A) - WON 3-0 (Serie A)

January 6 v Genoa (H) - WON 5-2 (Serie A)

December 13 v Palermo (H) - LOST 2-0 (Serie A)


TEAM NEWS

Inter 

Khrin, Chivu, Stankovic, Muntari and Thiago Motta are out with injuries while Eto'o is on African Cup of Nations duty with Cameroon. Milito is expected to be the loan striker upfront but will be supported by a three-man attacking midfield.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Julio Cesar, Maicon, Lucio, Samuel, Santon; Zanetti, Cambiasso; Balotelli, Sneijder, Pandev; Milito

Milan

Pato, Oddo, Onyewu, Adiyah and Zambrotta have been ruled out of the Milan derby while Flamini and Seedorf are suffering from injuries. Key defender Nesta is in serious doubt for Sunday's game. Leonardo, though, will continue to employ the 4-3-3 formation.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Dida, Abate, Kaladze, Thiago Silva, Antonini; Gattuso, Pirlo, Ambrosini; Beckham, Borriello, Ronaldinho


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Diego Milito (Inter)

The Argentine international striker has been in terrific form since joining Inter from Genoa in the summer and has 12 goals and three assists to his name so far in the league this season. His clinical finishing and ability to pick up the runs of his teammates have been hugely beneficial to Inter's attack and he would be the main source of danger for the Milan defence that could be without the inspirational Alessandro Nesta.

Ronaldinho (Milan)

The former Barcelona superstar leads the assists charts in the Italian top flight at the moment with eight assists and has also scored nine goals in the league. Ronaldinho scored a hat-trick against Siena at the weekend, his third against the Tuscans being an absolute beauty. He might not be the Ronaldinho of Barcelona but he still remains a class act, and it will be interesting to see how he copes with a strong and bullish Inter backline.


PREDICTION

One would be tempted to go for a Milan win as they have the momentum and have also been playing better than Inter of late. However, Jose Mourinho's side are masters at grinding out results when they don't deserve any and on a derby day they would certainly be fired up. It is difficult to see the Nerazzurri lose on Sunday but they wouldn't find it easy to defeat the Rossoneri.

Inter 2-2 Milan