It’s time for the talking to stop and the walking to start.
After a week’s worth of typically hyperbolic build-up the 221st Derby della Madonnina is finally upon us, and with it come 90 minutes that are likely to set the tone for the remainder of Inter’s 2017-18 season - either in a good way, or in a very, very bad way.
Exactly what Sunday’s match at the Meazza means for us was put into words by the always-insightful Fulvio Santucci a few days back (follow him, if Twitter is your thing): this weekend’s derby is the last chance Inter have between now and May to give their season an electric shock.
In what sense? In the sense that the only thing which could possibly restore this team and these players to their start-of-season selves after three months of mental flatlining is a quick, violent and perhaps unexpected shot in the arm, which jolts them out of their winter slumbers and provides them with a fresh clump of psychophysical energy for the final two months of the campaign.
Winning the derby would give the players back the self-belief that they’ve lost since the start of December, basically. In hindsight I could have just said that.
Drastic problems require drastic solutions. But if Inter’s winter of discontent counts as the former, then victory over your arch rivals while you’re on the floor and they’re on the crest of a wave can most certainly be classed as the latter. At the moment everything looks grim but this is the kind of match which can capsize your entire world in the blink of an eye.
Can we win this game? Recent form would suggest absolutely not. They’re unbeaten in all competitions since Christmas whereas we’ve won twice in all competitions since the start of December. They’ve conceded 4 goals in their last 13 games whereas we hadn’t kept a clean sheet in 2018 until last weekend’s shut-out against Benevento. The gap between the two teams in the Serie A table has shrunk by a whopping 11 points - from 18 to 7 - since the infamous afternoon of Benevento 2-2 Milan and Inter 5-0 Chievo.
Thankfully, derby games have a habit of picking up Recent Form and chucking it unceremoniously out of the window - not just in Milan but all over the world. So fretting over who’s in a better shape than who on the eve of the match is a gargantuan waste of our precious time. It’s a one-off contest and anything, literally anything, can happen.
So far this season Inter have played Roma, Milan, Napoli, Juventus, Lazio and Roma again and they haven’t lost on a single occasion. While it’s true that they’ve struggled to dominate the smaller teams in the division it’s also true that the none of the big teams have succeeded in dominating them.
We’ve never truly convinced in the games we’ve been expected to win but we’ve never sunk without trace in the games many have expected us to lose. There’s no reason to think we’ll be spanked into oblivion on this occasion either. Luciano Spalletti may have been born in Tuscany but that is where the comparisons between him and Marco Tardelli end.
The game that I expect to see on Sunday evening is a tight, hard-fought contest that neither side will ever have complete control of, which is low on chances and which will be decided one way or the other by what the Italians always refer to as the ‘episodes’.
It’s unlikely to be pretty, but here I stand in complete solidarity with the only Milan that I’ll be pleased to see at San Siro on Sunday night - playing nice football in the Derby della Madonnina counts for nothing. Three points, on the other hand, count for everything.
Date & Time: Sunday, March 4th, 2018; 8:45 PM CEST (2:45 PM on the U.S. East Coast)
Location: Stadio Giuseppe Meazza; Milan, Italy
TV/Streaming: In the US the game will be shown on both beIN Sports and Rai Italia (as well as fuboTV and beIN Sports Connect online), while UK residents will find it on BT Sport 2 HD (available online via BT Sport Live). Click here to find out where you can watch the match everywhere else in the world.
Inter’s Matchday Squad
Goalkeepers: Handanovic, Padelli, Pissardo
Defenders: Lisandro Lopez, Joao Cancelo, Ranocchia, Santon, Miranda, Dalbert, D’Ambrosio, Skriniar
Midfielders: Gagliardini, Rafinha, Vecino, Borja Valero, Emmers, Brozovic
Forwards: Icardi, Karamoh, Eder, Perisic, Candreva
Match Thread Rules
There are only three rules: don’t be hateful, don’t disrespect anyone else’s opinion and enjoy the game!
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