Showdown in MilanPosted: March 11, 2011
AC Milan still sit top of the Serie A table with a five point advantage over city rivals Inter, and following the recent 3-0 win over then second placed Napoli, it looks like the league has whittled down to a two horse race.
Two months ago most would have argued that Inter shouldn’t be considered as title contenders this year, as Rafael Benitez failed to keep up with the top teams and eventually left the club while at seventh place (with some games in hand, though.) But a managerial change and minimal January transfer involvement later and it’s most definitely between the Rossoneri and the Nerazzurri.
AC Milan kept up their dominance so far this campaign with a 1-0 win away to Juventus last week, courtesy of Rino Gattuso’s 8th career Serie A goal. Their next two games will see them face Palermo after Bari, two games that Milan would be expected to win.
Inter also have two games that one would imagine they’ll win both, but sandwiched in the middle of them is their second leg champions league tie away to Bayern Munich. The trip to Germany could potentially end up ruining a bit of confidence in the team should they get kocked out, as they are already 1-0 down from the first leg.
And after these few fixtures have come and gone, we witness the big one. A Derbi Della Madonnina now turned into a Derbi d’Italia. AC Milan and Inter face off in the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on April 2nd. Inter could potentially be top going into the game, however it is unlikely as there’s still a 5 point gap between the two. This game is sure to be the biggest Milan derby in recent times as it’s the first year in a long time that the Red and Black half have put up a real title charge.
Leonardo will be the key man in this derby. The Inter coach used to be a Milan legend, after having spent a total of 13 years at the club playing and on the administrative side. He knows the club like the back of his hand and could well play to this advantage in the game. Having managed most of the current Milan squad only a matter of months ago too will booth well for the Blue and Black side also.
For the Diavolo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic will have a huge part to play. When the sides met earlier on in the season it was his early penalty that was the only difference.
Anonymous against Tottenham in the Champions League, there are always questions following Ibracadabra’s attitude, work rate and willingness to perform. Will he care enough to run around a little and help his team? It’s set to be a fundamental aspect to the league leaders’ game should they earn the three points in the top of the table clash.
The remainder of the season after the derby will still throw up areas of possible slip-ups for both sides. Lazio, Napoli and Fiorentina still await the Nerazzurri, and will prove tough competition for the current champions, while Chievo have also already beaten them this season.
AC Milan are unbeaten in 11 league games but their run-in will include tests against Roma, Udinese, Sampdoria and Fiorentina. Nevertheless, they’ll take heart from the fact that they’ve fared well against teams near them in the table so far this season. Wins against Inter and twice vs Napoli, as well as two draws with Lazio and an incredible one at home to Udinese has resulted in the teams in and around the champions league positions haven’t been able to overcome Max Allegri’s troops.
Roma, 6th and 5 points from 4th spot, have already gotten one over Milan this season in the San Siro no less. However Milan are able to travel to teams that have beaten them at home this year as they showed in the recent win against Juventus.
The next few months will offer serious tests to Milan’s resilience. Inter will carry on doing what they’re doing, winning games and very quickly narrow the gap between them and first position in the league. Leonardo has turned the club around since joining and will want his first managerial Scudetto no doubt, and no better way to earn it than over Berlusconi, he’ll believe.
Milan have the 5 point advantage, but I can’t say that they’re nailed on to win the title. Inter know how to do it, time and time again, and perhaps Milan’s age will catch up on them. Then again, maybe Allegri has changed things up and rejuvenated the squad enough for them to become Italy’s number one. The future will reveal all from this fascinating Scudetto showdown.