Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

Lorenzo Vicini On April - 1 - 2011

Serie A Weekly’s Six To Watch: Milan - Inter

It’s already being dubbed as the game of the season by all the pundits in Serie A. In addition to it being a derby, only two points separate league leaders Milan from a resurgent Inter side. The San Siro will be packed this weekend with the rest of Serie A keen on the result of the affair. From all intents and purposes, it should be a cracking affair. Here are six things to watch for when the Derby della Madonnina kicks off this weekend

The Leo Factor

The long-time Milan player and ex-coach from just last season created a bit of a controversy when he took over for Rafa Benitez to coach at rivals Inter in December. The Brazilian has turned Inter’s season around in grand fashion by earning a record 37 points in 15 matches and a stunning come-from-behind victory to keep the Nerazzurri in the Champions League. The meteoric rise led by Leo is the reason why Inter are now at the heels of leaders Milan. Leonardo seems nothing like the coach he was from a year ago: he is enthusiastic and inspiring on the sideline and has galvanized the Inter spirit from a year ago. Now, the derby awaits and Leonardo has a chance to leapfrog Milan into first place with a win and put Inter in the driver’s seat with the Serie A season winding down.

The Milan Attack

When Ibrahimovic was suspended for his foolish punch on Bari’s Marco Rossi, Milan supporters everywhere collectively held their breath. The initial three match ban was reduced to two, but it still means the Swedish striker will be absent for the all-important derby. Considering Ibrahimovic leads all Milan scorers this season and has often scored at pivotal occasions, there is a belief held that Milan are Ibra-dependent. Unfortunately, this notion was not disproved in the first full match without the striker as Milan were held goalless in Palermo. The fact of the matter is Milan has several players who can carry the burden - they just need to do it. All eyes will be focused on Pato, Robinho and even Cassano to produce the goals necessary for the Rossoneri.

The Inter Defense

Earlier in the week, Inter had a real emergency on their hands. Chivu was dealing with inflammation in his thigh, Ranocchia still had lingering problems with his troublesome knee and Lucio was suspended for the match. With those three seemingly unavailable to play, it would have left Leonardo with a center back pairing of Materazzi and Cordoba. However, the news has gotten a little better for Inter: Ranocchia appears to have recovered enough to play in Saturday’s match after he partook in full training on Thursday. Unfortunately, Lucio’s disqualified status has not changed and while Chivu has progressed a little from his injury, it is unlikely that he will feature in the derby. This means that the defensive duties will fall to Ranocchia and Cordoba. The two will still have their hands full when they go up against an Ibra-less Milan attack.

Samuel Eto’o

Perhaps no other player outside of Napoli’s Edinson Cavani has been more vital to their side than Samuel Eto’o. With the injury woes hitting Diego Milito, the pressure really fell on Eto’o to perform. The Inter striker has been phenomenal this season, netting 29 goals in 38 appearances in all competitions. Furthermore, the Cameroon international almost single-handedly kept Inter’s season alive in the first part of the year under Benitez. Eto’o not only leads the team in scoring, but he also leads the team in assists as well, proving that he is as well-rounded a striker as they come. Samuel Eto’o has a tendency of showing up for big games - his eight goals in eight games in the Champions League is proof of that fact. It doesn’t get any bigger than the Milan derby with first place on the line. Expect Eto’o to play a great game.

Role Players

Beyond the big stars and big names, a game can often come down to players who fill important roles within the team. Milan and Inter both have their fair share of players who fit that bill: guys like Thiago Motta, Cambiasso and Stankovic for the Nerazzurri and Gattuso, Boateng and Van Bommel for Milan. The performance of these players could prove to be the difference between the two sides and the end result on Saturday.

Serie A History

The last item isn’t so much something to watch in the game as much as it is two numbers that are in the back of every Inter and Milan fans’ minds: 18 and 17 respectively. The two numbers represent the number of Scudetti each club has won. Inter’s recent success post-calciopoli has seen them surpass their rivals. With Milan leading the table for almost the entire season, the hope was that they would win their first Scudetto since the 2003-04 season to take their tally up to 18. Perhaps the players will not have those numbers in their heads, but don’t think for a second that each fan watching the game on Saturday will be thinking about those Scudetti.

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