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James Dielhenn On November - 13 - 2010

Milan Derby Preview

When Jose Mourinho was around, there was only one team worth talking about in the northern industrial city of Milan. Mourinho’s Inter, who have dominated Italian football since their rivals were dragged into despair by the Calciopoli scandal, ended a spell of superiority by winning an unprecedented Treble last season. This term, however, it is a different story, as for the first time in the post-Calciopoli era Milan head into the Derby della Madonnina above Inter in the Serie A standings.

The summer arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic has surely been the factor that has lifted the Rossoneri to the summit of the league after 11 matches. It will be the presence of the controversial Swede on Sunday night against his former club that could give this particular derby a special bite.

Ibrahimovic, who was as moody as he was mercurial during his Inter days, has already braced himself for the chorus of boos he will surely endure in his first derby in the red and black shirt. Typically for the current Rossoneri striker, he has claimed to relish the abuse and vowed to torment his former team-mates.

Inter, who have won the Scudetto for the past five seasons, are currently going through a difficult period under the stewardship of Rafa Benitez. They sit in fourth place, albeit just three points behind their city rivals, but it is their performances which have attracted criticism. Lacking the sturdy defence and the clinical attack of Mourinho’s Nerazzurri, Benitez’s team this season hasn’t looked like European champions. The spate of injuries in the squad mean this Milan Derby has possibly come at the worst time for Benitez’s men.

Wesley Sneijder, the ever-so vital cog in midfield, fainted during Inter’s midweek draw with Lecce, and is suffering from anaemia after an exhausting 12 months. His participation is in doubt, and Dejan Stankovic is in a similar boat. The middle of the park is further weakened by the injuries to Thiago Motta and McDonald Mariga, meaning youngsters Philippe Coutinho, Joel Obi and Nwankwo Obiora will have to be involved. Inter’s hopes in the derby may rest on whether Esteban Cambiasso is deemed fit enough to play. Maicon, Walter Samuel and Julio Cesar’s injuries further weaken the Nerazzurri.

Milan are not without their own worries, but will arrive at the San Siro on Sunday night in much better shape than their opponents. The news that Filippo Inzaghi’s season (and possibly his career) are finished after a knee injury will rock Milan, who are also missing the injury-prone Alexandre Pato. They should, however, have enough squad depth to field a starting eleven worthy of such an occasion.

The Scudetto can’t be decided in November, but this top-of-the-table clash is worth so much more than points on the board. For Milan, it is all about asserting local dominance for the first time in half a decade. Inter won’t, however, be in a rush to hand over the mantle of being the best team in the city, and indeed Italy.

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