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All eyes will be on the famed Giuseppe Meazza this weekend as Inter take on Milan in the Derby della Madonnina.  While the atmosphere of derbies in the past have been heightened by the on field personalities, the latest edition of the Milan derby will certainly be white hot due to the psychological warfare that has been waged by both clubs.  Feelings of disgruntlement and displeasure have been intensified with the ongoing Carlos Tevez transfer saga, and the fervor will reach its pinnacle this coming Sunday.

Inter manager and players

Two months ago, this match looked to be nothing more than city bragging rights because of Inter’s dismal start to the season due to a multitude of injuries and a change in management.  The stakes have now been raised as Claudio Ranieri’s men have won their last five matches, making them Europe’s most “in form” team.  The Nerazzurri have slowly climbed up the table without much fanfare, but now are fifth place in Serie A and are only one point behind Lazio, who is in fourth.

Coming off of an impressive 5-0 victory over a hapless Parma, the mood at Appiano Gentile reflects a relaxed but fully focused atmosphere with the team concentrating on of the biggest matches of the season.  A weight has seemingly been lifted off Inter’s strikers, as Diego Milito and Giampaolo Pazzini have both hit the back of the net in the previous two matches.  The defense seems to have found its stride, as only one goal has been allowed in the aforementioned five games.

One of the problems that hindered the Nerazzurri consistently throughout the first half of the season has been the rash of injuries, but that too seems to be on the mend.  Out of precaution, Wesley Sneijder, Dejan Stankovic, Cristian Chivu, and Diego Forlan were left in the stands against Parma but all should be available for selection, come Sunday.  After a lengthy layoff, Sneijder has been chomping at the bits for the chance to play again, and has declared to fans both in person and on Twitter that he is ready to play.

With all the players healthy, this might be the first time Ranieri has had the entire first team available for selection.  He is now faced with the difficult decision of who to play and in what formation.  Early reports this week speculated a 4-3-1-2, with Sneijder in his preferred trequartista role behind Milito and Pazzini.  As Ranieri is known as the “Tinkerman,” he has also tried a 4-4-1-1 formation during training, with Sneijder in the midfield and Ricardo Alvarez slightly behind the lone striker.  Alvarez, who was lambasted by many early in the season, has proven his critics wrong with brilliant performances on the pitch of late.

Even with a full squad, Inter come into the derby with the pressure being on their city rivals.  Milan are joint leaders on 37 points with Juventus, who are playing 11th place Cagliari and are almost assured a victory at home.  The Rossoneri will do whatever it takes to get the three points and there will be no doubt that they will deploy a full strength squad to do so.  Inter must keep a close eye on not only Ibrahimovic, but also Boateng, Nocerino, and Aquilani.  While some have regarded Ibrahimovic’s drifting movements as a new weapon in his arsenal, he has always been comfortable playing the ball at his feet and making those timely passes.  Always a threat in front of goal, he has the support of a physical midfield which gives him more freedom to roam.

Another factor that must not be discounted is officiating.  As evidenced by Inter’s round six match against Napoli, the referee can dictate or influence the outcome of the match.  Daniele Orsato has been appointed to officiate and not only will the eyes of the world be on the players, but on him as well.  Orsato’s presence in refereeing this weekend’s derby will hope to prove judicious and not a poor showing that may contribute to influencing the result of the match.  Much has been made about Milan receiving the most penalties thus far this season.  Hopefully the outcome of the game will be decided by the players on the pitch rather than the referee.

Though this Sunday’s matchup may not have the same league implications as recent derbies, this long standing city rivalry holds enough intrigue to whet the appetite.

Forza Inter!

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