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Alex On March - 30 - 2011

Milan Derby Preview: The Difference Makers

The obvious choices for the difference makers of theInter would be Samuel Eto’o and Wesley Sneijder, while for cross-town rivals Milan it is a question of who will step up in place of Zlatan Ibrahimovich. But the two clubs are much more than their respective superstars, it is too easy to just point out how many goals Eto’o has contributed this season or how Sneijder runs the offense.  It may well be a team game but there are always certain players who need to be on top form in the biggest games so we asked our experts TB (Inter) and Francesco (Milan) to look deeper than and give us two players from each side that will have an impact on the Derby della Madonnina.

Thiago Silva

The Brazilian center back has been without a doubt one of Milan’s best players this season. When paired with Alessandro Nesta at the back, Milan have had a near impenetrable wall that few teams have been able to get past. After his hugely positive debut season last year, Thiago Silva has really reached that next level during the current season. The Brazilian international is one of those players that really does everything well. He is a perfect mix of Brazilian flair and Italian defense. When the midfield was decimated by injury, Allegri moved Thiago Silva to the center of the pitch. The results were extremely positive, with many even suggesting that he should play there every game.

For Milan to stop Inter’s volatile attack on Saturday, namely Samuel Eto’o, they need a huge performance from Thiago Silva. With Eto’o really dominating defenses this season, it is up to Thiago Silva to contain the Cameroonian striker. In addition to Eto’o, Giampaolo Pazzini is always someone opposing defenders hate to go up against, as he is extremely hard to mark. Thiago Silva stated in a recent interview that he could be decisive in the derby, not only on the defensive side but also on the offensive side, maybe nabbing a goal. While Milan fans would love to see Thiago Silva score on Saturday, I think they will hope he will really be decisive on the defensive side.

Antonio Cassano

In his famous autobiography Dico Tutto, there was a line that always stuck in my head: “I derby non mi sbaglio” (I don’t mess up derbies). While it’s one thing to say it then to actually do it, Fantantonio has actually backed up that line his whole career. The facts speak for themselves: Cassano has scored at least once in every derby he’s taken part of in his career. From the Pugliese derby of Bari-Lecce, to the always heated Roma-Lazio derby, to the more recent Derby della Lanterna of Sampdoria-Genoa. Even when he was stuffing his face with paella and jamon in Madrid, Il Pibe di Bari Vecchia managed to grab a goal in the Real-Atletico derby.

Now he’s about to take part in yet another derby: Milan-Inter. The only problem with that is his recent form. After a great start in Rossonero where he managed to rack up 5 assists and a pair of goals, Cassano’s form has really dipped in recent weeks. He looks to still be struggling to find fitness, and the player everyone admired at Sampdoria still has not shown up. The media has made his dip in form so drastic that lots of reports have come out in recent days that Milan are going to get  rid of him in June and don’t want him anymore. That of course, is the Italian media at it’s best. Milan knew in getting Cassano that he would have to get his form back, and that doesn’t happen overnight. It’s reported that Cassano will start on the bench on Saturday because Allegri is opting for the Brazilian duo of Robinho and Pato. But, as we have seen throughout his career, Cassano doesn’t mess up derbies. So, anyone want to bet on Cassano coming off the bench and winning the derby for Milan and shutting up the critics? Stranger things have happened.

Esteban Cambiasso

Arguably the best defensive midfielder in the world, Esteban Cambiasso is the pulse of the Inter midfield.  El Cuchu has returned to form after a shaky start to the season where he was unappreciated and played out of position due to poor management choices.  Now under Leonardo, Cambiasso has played various roles in the center of the pitch, ranging from the left side of midfield to a slightly advanced central role, behind Sneijder.  The last few Inter matches have seen him shift back to his preferred defensive position and directly in front of the Inter defense.  It is in this location where he has the most influence and where he also controls the pace of the game.

Besides being a versatile footballer (who has the ability to score and has filled in central defense in seasons past), Cambiasso has one of the most intelligent footballing minds in the current crop of active players.  He is able to see both matches and mismatches on the pitch and helps carry out the managerial instructions given by the coach.  A multifaceted player, Cambiasso is also a workhorse who does the little things that are not on the highlight reel but are integral for a team win.

Giampaolo Pazzini

Giampaolo Pazzini was a shock arrival towards the end of the transfer window and has more than warranted a place up top partnering Samuel Eto’o since his move from Sampdoria.  He was acquired in lieu of Diego Milito’s injury woes this season, and he has been able to transition somewhat seamlessly into the starting XI.  In his ten appearances for Inter, Pazzo has scored six goals, all of them being vital in winning the game.  An even more interesting statistic is that he has scored all his Inter goals in the second half, seemingly pulling his goals out of half chances.

With this weekend comes Pazzini’s first Milan derby and the question that remains is whether or not he will make an impact.  After a scorching start in which Pazzo scored three goals in two games, his form has somewhat cooled in the last few rounds, even though he did score Inter’s winner against Lecce this past  matchday.  He is still adapting to the team, familiarizing himself with his new teammates, and learning different formations.  Pazzini’s ability to strike without warning is definitely his strong suit and if he gets the service from his team, there is a good chance he will punish the opposition and will be the difference maker come derby day.

You can look back on Part One of our Milan derby preview here

  • Ted

    NO Ibra, NO Party…

    I can’t believe some Milanista’s think we’re better without him..we have no chance of winning this derby. I still think we can win the title back. Ibra will have to carry us!!!

  • Ted

    It isn’t arguable. Cambiasso IS the best DM in the world..

    • TB

      I think he is as well, but I couldn’t appear to be too biased!

  • Ted

    I don’t get it.

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