Derby della Madonnina

It’s here!!! It’s back!!! The Milan derby, which turned out to be pivotal fixture in last year’s run up is once more here with its exhilarating action and drama!!!

Few fixtures match the fever pitch this match raises. Rarely have two teams from the same city, and sharing the same ground, been so evenly matched in the history of football (the only other top European club sharing its home ground is Bayern Munich, whose rivals 1860 Munich ply their trade in 2 Bundesliga). How Milan and Inter have continued to share San Siro is a miracle in itself: in today’s age of total and utter commercialization of football, even cash-strapped clubs like Bury and Exeter do not want to relinquish their sole right to their ground. While clubs try to outdo themselves in trying to build better stadia with higher capacity, no Milanese would even like to dream of the day one of these moves out of San Siro.

Last year’s fixtures saw Inter trump Milan in both the legs of derby. In their away match, Inter narrowly edged Il Diavolo with a Diego Milito strike from a Javier Zanetti pass that was misread by Ignazio Abate. Then, in May, came the second highest scoring derby in the history of the game.

Mind, it was no way easy for Inter. Their situation during the game was summed up by many pundits as ‘being between a rock and a hard place.’ Their city rivals had fallen off track in the defence of their title, and desperately needed the win to be able to push Juventus to the wire. Inter, however, had less of an incentive: it was going to be hard to qualify for the Champion’s League anyway. Moreover, losing the derby, always a matter of shame, would mean giving their city rivals a leg up in the season. But winning it, on the other hand, would mean virtually handing the title to their biggest rivals ever. Nevertheless, Inter approached the game with clinical precision and professionalism. The game veered this way and that. A Milito strike was cancelled out by an Ibrahimovic penalty (best remembered for Julio Cesar’s taunting of the former Inter striker); then Ibra scored a second to give Milan the lead; then Milito scored twice from the spot to hand Inter the advantage again; and then we had a screamer from Maicon to settle the game once and for all. Beating Milan in the derby is always sweet.

Fast forward to today’s fixture. The match has been highly subdued this year, mainly due to both teams’ faltering starts to the season. Among the TV viewership, the excitement is even lesser, due to a certain match called ‘El Clasico’ being played the same day. However, we can expect a really good game with football being the real winner. The season is still young and this derby, though it will undoubtedly be fiercely contested, does not hold any immediate significance. Both teams recently got their first home wins of the season. Moreover, both teams are expected to feature their special additions: Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini, who switched clubs in the summer. Till now, Cassano has been more prolific at Inter than Pazzini has been at Milan, but who knows what will happen in the derby 😉

Line Ups:

Milan: Abbiati, Abate, Bonera, Zapata, Antonini, Montolivo, de Jong, Nocerino, Pazzini, Emauelson, El Sharaawy.

Inter: Handanovic, Juan, Samuel, Ranocchia, Nagatomo, Gargano, Cambiasso, Guarin, Zanetti, Milito, Cassano.

Milan gaffer Massimiliano Allegri is under pressure from his club’s higher powers to deliver the right results, and the derby will be the standard all others will be measured up to. Thus we see quite a conservative 4-3-3 formation for Il Diavolo. de Jong will act as shield in front of the defence of Abate, Bonera, Zapata and Antonini, while Montolivo and Nocerino run down the pitch on his sides. The 3-man attack line of Pazzini, Emauelson and El-Sharaawy looks strong, at least on paper. Pazzini has not quite delivered the goods in his short time in the red half of Milan, whil Emanuelson cannot be called impressive in all his time at San Siro. The strongest of the three is Stephan El-Sharaawy. The Italo-Egyptian youngster’s goals are the reason why Allegri is still in the dugout.

On the other side, we see a completely radical and new approach, one which has served Stramaccioni well in the past few games. The 3-man defence of Juan, Samuel and Ranocchia will have the triple protection of Gargano, Cambiasso and Guarin in front of them (Cambiasso expected to act as full-time anchor, with the other two having more freedom to go forward as and when possible). Nagatomo and Zanetti will make the runs down the flanks, as they have been doing to great effect. A predictable forward line of Milito and Cassano completes the set.

Prediction: Milan 2-3 Inter

This one’s really hard to call. With both teams not playing to the best of their potential, football will be the real winner today. We should expect a keenly contested battle. However, I think Inter will just edge this one, given their excellent away record this year. If Milito clicks, Guarin plays like he did against Neftchi and Ranocchia manages to keep El-Sharaawy out, Inter surely have the goods to win this one.

– By Parth Gawarikar

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