In case you haven’t heard, Inter Milan have a pretty big match this weekend, as they face local rivals AC Milan. The Nerazzurri enter the 219th edition of the Derby della Madonnina having taken 19 out of a possible 21 points to start the Serie A season.
After buying what is essentially a brand new team this summer, AC Milan have been very inconsistent to start to their season, a reality which is not unexpected. Milan have already lost three matches, and find themselves seven points behind Inter after seven games.
Every Milan Derby is significant, and Sunday’s match will be no different. Inter want to prove their point total isn’t based on luck, while building some momentum before next weekend’s away clash with Napoli. After defeats to Lazio and Roma, Milan will be eager to prove they can win a big match, and possibly spark a charge up the table with a win over Inter.
Although it’s still just October, Sunday’s match is shaping up to be crucial for both sides, and we at SoM couldn’t be more excited!
With this in mind, we each contributed to the following roundtable discussion. Check out our thoughts on the Milan Derby below.
Heading into Sunday’s match, how confident are you in Inter?
Torin: Not as confident as I’d like to be, and for two reasons: 1.) We’ve won, but we haven’t impressed, and 2.) Anything and everything can happen in derbies like this. Inter are undefeated and sitting in third place. I get that. However, since the dramatic win at Roma, we haven’t exactly blown anybody away. I also get that a middling Milan team are currently in 7th place, and manager Vincenzo Montella’s days might be numbered. But, as I said before: anything can happen when two rivals like this face off.
Tim: I’m mildly confident in Inter right now. No, the performances have not been pretty, but football is a results-oriented business, and Inter have achieved positive results this season. The club earning 19 points from their opening seven matches, and being tied with Juventus in second place in the table, is beyond my wildest dreams when I first envisioned Inter’s start to the season. That said, I don’t need to remind any Inter fan how badly the team played in the lead up to the last international break. On the other hand, Milan have both performed poorly and failed to earn points this season, so Inter may very well be the better (and more in-form) side.
Sanat: I am not very confident if I am being honest. Derbies are always unpredictable and even more so when facing a wounded animal which the red half of Milan is at the moment. Even the most ardent Nerazzurri fan would agree that our performances have been inconsistent this season, too often varying between sublime and subpar. Having said that, our defense gives me a little bit of comfort but that is quickly neutralized by our somewhat blunt attacking game. If we came away with an ugly, scrappy win with a goal scored in the last ten minutes of the game I would be over the moon!
Matt: I feel pretty confident ... in some aspects. Sanat is right, you kind of have to throw everything out for a derby game. I feel as if our offensive front is solid, but I would be remiss if I didn’t think our midfield was a bit shaky and our defense — with the exception of Skriniar — was downright questionable. This game is not going to be filled with finesse, but rather dirty and scrappy. What more could Interisti ask for??
Will: To be perfectly honest I’m never confident heading into a derby, because as a person I am programmed to always imagine the worst case scenario life can throw at me in any given moment. But even putting narcissism to one side for a minute I’m not overflowing with confidence for this weekend: Inter’s winning start to the season cannot be put down exclusively to weak opponents and an outrageous amount of luck (although those factors have both mattered), but if you opened an Oxford English Dictionary and looked up ‘work in progress’ the chances are you’d find a picture of this team. Can we overcome a direct rival without relying on them hitting the woodwork three times and having a legitimate penalty claim ignored, and does this team really have the margins for improvement Spalletti believes it has? Those are two questions we could have answered as early as this weekend.
What’s your biggest concern entering the match?
Torin: Inter’s right flank. We’d be lying to ourselves if we said Danilo D’Ambrosio and Antonio Candreva have impressed this year. Additionally, Milan could deploy some of their most dangerous players on the left, including Ricardo Rodriguez and Giacomo Bonaventura. While I don’t think the Nerazzurri will have too much trouble putting the ball in the back of the Milan net, I do worry that Milan might bag a few of their own in response. Don’t be surprised if they come at the expense of D’Ambrosio and Candreva on Inter’s right flank.
Tim: The unknown. AC Milan essentially bought an entire new team during the mercato, and this will be their first exposure to the Milan Derby. While Inter (and Mauro Icardi) will have some familiarity dealing with Leonardo Bonucci, many of the new additions to Milan are dangerous and talented players. No, they have’t looked like a cohesive group yet, but we can’t expect that to last forever, and they will eventually turn good. If Milan’s revamped squad uses the derby as their chance to demonstrate their quality on a big stage, Inter will have their hands full. I also don’t know how quickly our players will be able to readjust to playing together in Spalletti’s system. If you recall the SPAL match after the first international break, it took Inter a full half to get things clicking again. If the Nerazzurri start poorly, and Milan are motivated and organized, this match could become an issue.
Sanat: The cascade effect. The Milan derby marks the first game in a series of difficult fixtures for Inter. Lose this one badly, and I can see the team have a terrible run of form and lose all the early momentum. While a defeat is always painful, I can live with one loss. What gives me nightmares is the impact of a derby defeat on a fragile team like ours. I guess this is where we will learn more about Spalletti's man-management.
Matt: The defense. Skriniar has been a pleasant addition, but that isn’t enough. Yuto Nagatomo has been inconsistent and Dalbert isn’t ready to be a consistent player yet. With Leonardo Bonucci — recently named a finalist for the Ballon d’Or — healthy, that could present some big issues for our suspect defense.
Will: Milan’s desperation to win. There are few things more uncomfortable in life than being told by 90% of neutrals that Inter are favourites to win as derby day approaches, because very rarely do these games follow what the pre-match logic suggests. Milan have lost their last two league games, they’ve been pelted with criticism from all sides during the last month and their coach is reportedly fighting to save his job - to me those sound like the ingredients for the performance of a lifetime, which we are going to be on the end of. We’re in nothing like as fragile a position as the Rossoneri are but that only causes me discomfort ahead of a match like this. (I also completely agree with Sanat regarding the cascade effect.)
Let’s pretend to be Luciano Spalletti for a moment. How would you line-up Inter, what’s your biggest selection dilemma, and why did you choose to go in the direction you did?
Torin: With Brozovic out, our toughest call is at the trequartista role. Joao Mario and Eder have both shown that they play better as substitutes, while the deep-lying midfield role has proven to suit Borja Valero much better than further up the field as a trequartista. Personally, I’d come out firing and start Eder to see if he can knick (or create) a goal in the first half. If so, or if he just isn’t working, then bring on Joao Mario. I’d also prefer Yuto over Dalbert, for what it’s worth. As for the rest of the XI, it’s hard to pick anyone but the usual suspects, including a Vecino-Valero pairing in defensive midfield.
Tim: If I’m Spalletti, I’d use the following line-up:
(4-2-3-1): Handanovic; D’Ambrosio, Skriniar, Miranda, Dalbert; Vecino, Borja Valero; Candreva, Eder, Perisic; Icardi.
Like Torin, the trequartista role was my biggest selection dilemma, and I too went with Eder. I personally like having Joao Mario available off the bench as a potential match-changing super-sub, and with Brozovic out, that leaves Eder in the Starting XI. Having a secondary striker in the lineup for this match isn’t a bad idea in my book either, especially if Milan deploy three center backs. You have to believe Bonucci and/or Musacchio will be man marking Icardi closely, and space will be limited, so Eder’s work rate and long-shot threat could add a different dimension to Inter’s attack.
Sanat: Barring injuries that the Torin and Tim have already covered, the starting eleven shouldn't have too many surprises. However, if I am Spalletti, my biggest concern is the lack of meaningful first half performances in a majority of games this season. I cannot seriously expect to get out of jail (aka victory vs. Roma) every single time and so I would look to someone like an Eder to inject energy into our otherwise lethargic early game performances.
Matt: It’s been said already, but the trequartista is the biggest issue here. Eder is the best option for adding a bit more offense on the field to challenge the Rossoneri defense and somewhat questionable net-minding of late. In the center, you keep Borja Valero and Vecino along with Eder and drop Valero back to assist with the defense. Dalbert will need step up here as well.
Will: I’d stick broadly with what’s brought me results up to this point, because the derby is not the time to be carrying out experiments - Handanovic; D’Ambrosio, Miranda, Skriniar, Nagatomo (I don’t trust Dalbert in a game of this magnitude yet...); Gagliardini, Borja Valero; Candreva, Joao Mario, Perisic; Icardi. Cancelo, Dalbert and Karamoh all offer quality and creativity but I’d decide I could get more out of them by using them as impact subs in the second half. The biggest selection headache is of course the no. 10 position - although I really can’t call which way Spalletti is going to go at left-back - but only because of Brozovic’s absence, because I would have confirmed him in the starting XI in a heartbeat had he been fit and available. Joao Mario doesn’t convince
What’s your favorite Milan Derby memory?
Torin: Rodrigo Palacio’s backheel winner. I know this may not be a pinnacle Nerazzurri moment for Inter fans older than I, but due to my relatively young Inter fandom and the fact that it was the very first Derby della Madonnina I could ever watch live, Rodrigo’s stunning last-gasp winner nearly four years ago sticks with me like no other Milan Derby moment.
Tim: Inter 4-2 Milan in 2012. This was one of the most exciting derbies in recent memory — it simply had everything. Inter blew a 1-0 advantage thanks to an Ibra brace, only to retake the lead through a Diego Milito hat trick. Maicon then sealed the victory in the 87th minute with a stunning goal from outside the box. Before last year’s debacle, the 2011/12 season was one of the most turbulent campaigns for Inter since I’ve been a fan, but the win saw the Nerazzurri top Milan in both Serie A derbies, which made the 6th place finish so much more palatable.
Sanat: For me this has to be Milan 0-4 Inter in August 2009. This derby win turned out to be our launchpad for the (only) Treble winning season (by any Italian team ever). As an Inter fan, this was a truly consummate performance - clean sheet, four goals, and Gattuso sent off! Maicon's goal to make put us three goals up stands out due to the crisp inter-play with Milito. However, now that I think about it, Inter's fourth goal scored by Deki was equally delicious!
Matt: I am going to steal Tim’s 4-2 win in 2012. The strike from Maicon was simply brilliant. It was a Derby sweep to take the sting away from the Coppa loss earlier in the season. Of course, I don’t think it made 6th place easier to swallow, but it could have been worse.
Will: What Tim and Matt said - Stramaccioni’s 4-2 win in 2012. Handing Juventus their first Scudetto of the post-calciopoli era on a silver platter does tarnish my memory of the evening slightly, but it remains a tremendous match. The only things I’d add to what’s already been said are the joy of winning in spite of the phantom penalty Milan were awarded in the first half - how, how, how? - and Ibrahimovic’s wonder goal at the start of the second (even if it went against us, it wasn’t half bad).
Finally, what’s your prediction for Sunday’s match?
Torin: 3-2 to Inter. Both defenses have looked relatively wobbly over the past month, while both of the San Siro teams’ attacks are more than capable. This result boils down to Luciano Spalletti being the superior manager. Look for a late Inter sub to make the difference.
Tim: 2-1 Inter. I think this is going to be an extremely tight and tense match, but I like Inter’s chances. While the performances haven’t been all that convincing lately, Inter played their best football of the season against Fiorentina and AS Roma, which are “big“ games. Few matches are more important than the Milan Derby, so I expect the Inter players to come prepared and focused. I think Icardi and Perisic get back on the the scoresheet on Sunday and lead Inter to a win.
Sanat: Inter to win 2-1. I can see Milan coming hard at us in the early going. If we can withstand that, I can see us scoring goals, perhaps late goals. I wouldn't be surprised if our performance is more pragmatic than artistic but in a derby it is only the result that counts. More than anything, if I can look back on the game and know that our guys gave it their all, I will be satisfied.
Matt: Inter to win 2-1. The Rossoneri are not going to just lie back and let Inter attack. They are going to come right at us and likely on the right side of the pitch. We will start the game slow and likely even concede the first goal. But, here we will have a solid second half and score a winner in the last 15 minutes.
Will: A 1-1 draw. I’ve heard a lot of people say this week that they expect there to be a lot of goals in this game, but I think there’s too much at stake in this derby, particularly for Milan, for that to happen. Montella has said he’d be happy to win 1-0 with an own goal and I wouldn’t be surprised if it were tight as that. Add that to the fact that four of the last six derbies have been draws and you arrive at a 1-1 draw: Andre Silva on target for Milan, Perisic on target for Inter. Although Antonio Candreva has scored in two Milan derbies out of two so far in his career...
There you have it — our thoughts and predictions for Sunday’s match. Feel free to let us know if you agree, and be sure to share your favorite Milan Derby memories in the comments below. Forza Inter!