Serie A has a packed weekend of action straight after the international break, building up to the Milan derby on Sunday night. The two Italian giants are looking at this season as their time to return to the big time. In many ways, Inter are basically already there. Meanwhile, AC Milan’s summer signings and boardroom changes have boosted their stature.
The pair are looking a lot better of late, and they are each in great form. That’s only added to the anticipation ahead of the Milan derby, one of the biggest games in the Serie A calendar. Here we’re looking at what’s on the line in Sunday’s meeting, and where each side could potentially get an advantage.
Two Sides Hoping this is their Year
That task is more difficult now that Italy has six top sides fighting for four spots in the Champions League. However, there is reason to believe that both the Milan sides will be in contention this time around. AC have made progress in the last two seasons, along with some backwards steps. However, a solid summer in the transfer market has given Gennaro Gattuso a side capable of returning to the top four. There’s no better time to prove that than against last season’s fourth placed side, the Rossoneri’s biggest rivals.
Meanwhile, Inter were talked up as title contenders at the start of the season, after making some great strides during the transfer window. They added depth throughout the squad, and that’s going to pay in the long-run. Their moves seem to finally be helping now, as they have brushed away an awful start to pick up their form. The Nerazzurri have raced into third place, as they try to better last season’s finish. A six game unbeaten run has helped them across all competitions, and it tees up a fascinating meeting with the Rossoneri, who are unbeaten in eight.
Inter’s Mammoth Week
The Nerazzurri have a clash with Barcelona on Wednesday, meeting them for the first time since Jose Mourinho’s infamous Nou Camp celebrations. They go into that clash as underdogs, but they sit side by side with Barca in their group, after the pair won their opening two games. After those victories, Inter have stolen a march on Spurs, who they are rivalling for a place in the last 16.
That means this isn’t just a day out for inter, a point or three could be huge. The visitors make this trip aiming to move closer to the next round. With Juventus already storming out in front in Europe, clubs have to decide what their focus is. We’ve already gone through Napoli’s dilemma, and now Inter may choose to focus on their Champions League campaign.
Luciano Spalletti obviously has to guide Inter back into the Champions League next season, so top four is a priority. That puts pressure on their Serie A clash next weekend, when they make a familiar trip. They return to the scene of their final day drama from May, facing off with Lazio. After beating the Aquille and leapfrogging them into fourth, the Nerazzurri will know the stakes for their return to the capital.
That all sets up some exciting days ahead for Inter, but it could also play into AC Milan’s hands. The hosts may look to make a few changes here, with an eye on the challenges to come.
Argie Forward Free for All
One area where Inter will be at their strongest is in attack, with Mauro Icardi leading the line once again. We’ve already gone into why we expect a big game from the Nerazzurri’s captain, but he isn’t just facing off with a club rival. This clash brings together two superstar Argentina strikers in the derby, with Icardi meeting Gonzalo Higuain.
That’s an interesting sub-plot here, as the pair each represent the new and the old. Icardi has stepped up for his national side, returning to the squad after the World Cup, with Lionel Messi and Higuain moving on. However, the Inter captain is an old hand in these games, scoring a hat-trick in this fixture last season. Meanwhile, Higuain is the new man at Milan, a symbol of their growing force.
The striker’s move from Juventus was a big coup for the Rossoneri, and arguably the best of their many transfers across the last 18 months. He made up for Milan’s biggest weakness last season, the lack of a quality, experienced centre-forward. He’s going to be desperate to show Juve what they’re missing, and he may have a point to prove against an Icardi-led side.
These two teams have a history of derby goals, with 13 scored across their last four league meetings. Their two big names forwards are likely to get in on the act, with the pair in form and firing for sides who are moving up in Italy. All of that comes to a head in this weekend’s huge clash. Regardless of who wins, this looks like a victory for Italian football’s resurgence.
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