It's that time of year again. Time for the Milan derby. The only derby in Europe played by two teams which has been champions of Europe and the world.
Since the 2006 Calciopoli scandal that crippled Juventus and almost did the same to AC Milan, Inter have won 6 of the 8 derby matches.
Milan fans will want to forget last year when they were defeated 6-0 on aggregate over the 2 derbies. Inter also went on to win the treble.
However, I have a feeling things may be different this year. One key element has been added that makes the derby more important that usual. Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Ibra was an absolute monster in front of goal for Inter Milan during his 3 years there. He was the driving force behind an Inter side that look one dimensional in his absence. However, now he wears the black and red stripes of Inter's cross town rivals AC Milan.
Ibrahimovic is definately fired up to prove his worth against his old club, especially after Inter President Massimo Moratti labeled Zlatan "selfish" after his summer transfer.
Zlatan will be the key man for AC Milan you must feel. With Pato & Inzaghi out as attacking options... it will no doubt be Zlatan & Robinho...possibly backed by Seedorf in the hole. Inter will want to shut down Milan attacking options and try to expose an aging and often faulty backline.
AC Milan are going to want to shutdown the trident of Eto'o, Milito & Sneijder. The trio ran rough shot over Milan last year in the derbies and if the Rossoneri have any chance of winning this one... they need to shutdown the attackers. Eto'o is in his usual fine form, Sneijder will be returning from injury and Milito will look to break a slump that has haunted him since the beginning of the season.
Pretty much, a battle of attack for me. Inter are without Samuel, who I believe to be their best defender and Milan's defense are a little past it. The last thing Milan want to do is give Diego Milito a ray of light to turn his season around.
Ibrahimovic will try and become the 2nd player ever to score for both sides in the Milan derby. The only other player to accomplish this is legendary Brazilian striker Ronaldo.
Battles aside...one must ask...does this match have title implications? Personally, I don't think so. It's far too early in the season to be jumping to conclusions just yet, however Milan should treat it like it's the most important match of the year.
In the past few seasons Milan have been on the verge of taking the driver seat in the scudetto chase but have fallen short in the derby. Last year, Milan looked unstoppable coming off a 4-0 win over Siena while Inter looked barely buoyant only managing to string together a series of draws. When it came time for the big match Inter showed their true colors and punished Milan and effectively killed their title hopes. Milan need to atleast get a draw from this encounter.
For me part of the reason Milan couldnt get past Inter last year... was the attack. Ronaldinho just isn't a big game player... for all the flashy trickery he sometimes pulls... he's looked like an invisible man in the derby. Pato was often isolated by himself and was just marked out of the game by Lucio & Samuel. With the addition of Zlatan and Robinho and the absence of Samuel... Milan look way better going forward this year.
Bottom line : The derby can be a huge momentum shifter and both defenses will have to be their best to shutdown razor sharp attacking lines.
There have been some past derbies that turned out to be absolute classics...let's take a trip down memory lane. Shall we?
2003: The Milan derby becomes the Euro derby as Milan & Inter meet for the first time in Europe in the UEFA Champions League Semi-Finals. The first leg finished 0-0. The second leg saw Andriy Shevchenko score on the stroke of half time to put Milan ahead. Obafemi Martins potted a late equalizer but it was no good as Milan won on away goals and booked themselves a spot in the UCL finals. They went on to defeat Juventus on kicks for their 6th UCL title. Highlights here
2004: Javier Zanetti & Dejan Stankovic scored early for Inter to put them up 2-0 over AC milan at half time. A determined Rossoneri stormed back with 3 goals in the 2nd half to take the three points. Goals from Tomasson, Kaka & Seedorf. Milan went on to lift the Serie A crown that year. Highlights here
2005: Easily the most infamous of the derby matches. Milan & Inter are drawn in their second Euroderby in 3 years. Milan win the opening leg 2-0 with goals from Shevchenko & Stam. The 2nd leg was all Inter as they pushed forward lookin to draw level on aggregate. Their dreams were shattered by a 25 yard left footed stunner by who else...Andriy Shevchenko. Most fans will remember this as the match where then Milan keeper Nelson Dida was pelted by live flares from the Inter faithful. The match was abandoned and the tie was awarded to Milan. Highlights here.
2007: New signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic leads Inter to a thorough 4-3 dismantling of AC Milan. This ushered in a new wave of dominance of Italian football by Milan's rivals. Highlights here.
2010: Inter wins both legs of the derby by a aggregate of 6-0 and establish themselves as Italian footballs number one force. Highlights here
Who will win tomorrow? Watch and find out.
Basso's prediction: 1-1 or 2-2 draw.
Producer Corey Basso
Full Time: Vancouver's Soccer Show
Full Time airs every Sunday night. 9p-11p. Only on TEAM 1040!