Match Preview: The Derby Della Madonnina

It is possibly the greatest crosstown derby in the World. Although the Derby della Mole (Turin derby–Juve v Torino), the Derby della Lanterna (Genoa-Samp) and the Derby della Cupolone (Roma-Lazio) will argue against this. But the Milan derby arguably draws the most crowd outside of Italy. The duel contested by the two Milanese clubs INTER and AC Milan is upon us yet again four months after the first. This time, things have changed drastically.

Fortunes have reversed tremendously and Inter are the new Milan somewhat haven  won just 1 of their last 5 Serie A games. They were 13 points ahead of Milan a couple of weeks ago but now find themselves one point and 2 places adrift of their city rivals. Both come into this game in high spirits after their European adventure.

Milan claimed the biggest scalp in modern football, defying the odds to silence ALMIGHTY BARCELONA 2-0 at the Meazza. Inter were in no mood to dole out gifts either, putting CFR CLUJ to the sword in Romania. 3-0 it ended and 5-0 on aggregate. Milan still have to go to the Nou Camp for the return leg v the Blaugrana.

Coach Max Allegri is a man reformed. The former Cagliari tactician has completely revitalised AC Milan in the last two months. Much so that if the Italian League began 15 games ago, the Diavolo would be sitting comfortably on top of the pile and not Juventus. Such as been the phenomenal nature of their upturn in form. The purchase of long time fan and ex-Inter striker Mario Balotelli from Manchester City has coincided with the upsurge.

Super Mario’s electric start to life as a Rossoneri was never doubted but the speed at which it has kicked off has been breathtaking, The bad boy of world football has struck four times in 3 games so far. A superb return. His penalty reputation has reamained undaunted. 18 of 18 is obviously the best conversion rate in the history of football.

Stephan El Shaarawy, affectionately called II Faraone, has been a revelation to say the least. His 15 Serie A goals have contributed to the explosive form Milan are currently enjoying. Aside penalties, he is the highest goal scorer in the SERIE A. El Matador Cavani has scored 18 including 4 spot-kicks.

In the absence of Tonio Nocerino, Nigel de Jong and Mathieu Flamini, Sulley Muntari, Max Ambrosini and Ricco Montolivo have been excellent in the middle of the pack. Ask Xavi, Fabregas and Busquets.  Allegri has also unearthed a new gem in recent weeks. M’baye Niang, the summer capture from Caen has been worthy of praise.

His contributions have been noteworthy and telling. When he came on against Barca in midweek, he ran the Barcelona rearguard ragged and tormented Jordi Alba countless times. Although he has yet to register a Serie A goal, his strike v Reggina in the Coppa Italia made him the 2nd youngest scorer in Milan’s history at 17 years 350 days (6 days to his 18th birthday). He has had his fair share of disciplinary problems, but his talent is undoubtedly there for all to see.

At the back, Philippe Mexes can be erratic and slow to react sometimes. Nevertheless, his partnership with Christian Zapata has flourished in recent games. Should it continue, Milan will go places they never dreamt of when the season started. Bereft of Ibra, MVB, Pippo Inzaghi, Seedorf, Gattuso, Nesta, etc, the team was expected to struggle and struggle they did at the beginning. There’s light at the end of the tunnel and the signs are glaring.

Mattia De Sciglio has been plagued by niggling injuries of late, but he is an interesting prospect. Constant has been exceptional at left back and showed it in midweek. Abate flatters to deceive and frustrates at the same time. Milan have to cope with him as he is the best option they have at right back. I personally don’t rate him.

Internazionale Milano sacked the likes of Gian Piero Gasperini, Claudio ‘the Tinkerman’ Ranieri and Rafa Benitez finally handing coaching duties to Primavera coach, Andrea Stramaccioni. He steadied the ship, but couldn’t qualify the Nerazzurri for the Champions League and finally had to make do with a place in the Europa League. They have made their mark in the competition, recently qualifying for the Round of 16 to face English side, Spurs.

In the Serie A, they were flying at first, firing on all cylinders. All of a sudden, the team collapsed. From Scudetto contenders, they have regressed rapidly and are fighting to qualify for the Champions League. The players have consistently backed the young and inexperienced manager. Even owner, the Don Massimo Moratti has been unequivocal in his defence and confidence of the troubled manager.

The likes of El Talentino d’Bari Cassano, Rodrigo Palacio, Tomasso Rocchi, Mateo Kovacic, Freddy Guarin (initially on loan from Porto), Walter Gargano (on loan from Napoli), Alvaro Pereira, etc were brought in to bring back the Scudetto to the Gentile. Cassano was lured from City rivals, AC Milan in a swap that included Pazzini going the other way.

Walter ‘II Muro’ Samuel is not going to feature in the match, Milan will be extremely delighted with that. The ‘Wall’ has never lost (100%) a game v the red, black and white and scored a 4th minute winner when both sides met in October. Andrea Ranocchia is also unavailable which means Chivu will partner Juan Jesus in defence. Not what Inter would have wished for.

But wishes are not horses. There’s no shortage of greatness in midfield. The superhuman Javier Zanetti, leader of the Interisiti can play there, although he will play either right or left back depending on where Nagatomo is going to start from. Esteban Cambiasso can be relied upon any time. His man marking, hard tackling abilities cannot be questioned.

The bald headed Argentine shackled Xavi, Messi and the rest of the Catalan gang three years ago when Inter went on win the Champions League. He has come up big on various occasions in his career and is not afraid of the elite stage. Freddy Guarin has scored some important goals from attacking midfield. His double v Cluj ensured Inter’s passage into the next round. He is expected to provide the needed spark from that position.

Mateo Kovacic was brought in to replace the departed Sneijder (Gala) and Coutinho (Liverpool). The teenager who pinpoints Robert Prosinecki as his idol, is something of a marvel who might go on to become an even better player than the aforementioned Croat.

It is in attack that the Nerazzurri have a big problem. El Principe Milito is out for the season with a serious knee injury suffered in the first leg of the Europa League R32 match v Cluj. The Argentine whose two goals won them the UCL in 2010, is Inter’s highest goal scorer this season and was central to Inter’s defeat of Juventus which effectively ended their 49 match League unbeaten run a few months ago. He’ll be sorely missed. Inter have Cassano and Palacio to lead the line nonetheless…none of them is DIEGO MILITO with all due respect.

If the Rossoneri can earn a win against Inter, it will round off one of the most memorable weeks in Berlusconi’s 27 year reign as President of the outfit. A win v Barcelona and Inter Milan in the space of four days is the stuff of good dreams. It will do a lot to their mental capability and give them that air of invincibility all great teams need to succeed.

This game is of immense importance as it a battle of who gets the 3rd and final Champions League place. Berlusconi, Galliani and Allegri are looking beyond the number three spot anyways. The new objective is to try and win the Championship. Something that was inconceivable at the beginning of the season when the team was almost fretting with relegation staring in its face.

Inter must do well tonight to take away the agony of the 4-1 humbling by the Viola last time out. The Serbia-Montenegro duo of Ljajic-Jovetic scored a brace each to condemn the team to a 4-1 loss and further dent their hopes of finishing among the top 3 at the end of the season. II Aeroplanino’s men were in the mood that day. It will be interesting to see how the Curva and Ultras are going to handle the Cassano-Balotelli situation.

Both prodigal sons, Cassano left Milan for Inter and Balotelli is now lining up for the arch-rivals of the club who made him the footballer that he is today. Loyalty has been dead and buried in Football long ago. We can’t wait for the drama to start and when it does, trust me it will be nerve racking and pulsating. Let’s have it.


Probable Lineups–

INTER  MILAN—> Handanovic, Zanetti, Chivu, Juan, Nagatomo, Cambiasso, Kuzmanovic, Kovacic, Guarin, Cassano-Palacio

AC MILAN——> Abbiati, Abate, Mexes, Zapata, Constant, Muntari, Montolivo, Ambrosini, Balotelli, Niang, El Shaarawy.


Some sumptuous battles today.


Written by Ohiskaka Eboreime

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