It is the biggest Milan derby in years on Saturday, a match that could potentially decide which side wins Serie A this season. Milan leads the league with 62 points, followed by Inter with 60, Napoli with 59 and Udinese with 56.
AC Milan enters this weekend’s derby with a two-point lead over Inter Milan but one on three games winless streak. They also will be without suspended striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Inter on the other hand is playing with confidence at the moment, boosted by its come-from-behind win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
It’s a big turnaround from just a few months ago. When Leonardo was hired to replace Rafa Benitez as Inter’s manager during the winter break, Inter trailed Milan by 13 points.
“Entering the derby two points behind was one mission, and now we’re starting a new mission,” Inter midfielder Dejan Stankovic said. “The derby can change an entire season, it gives us a chance to gain back something that was impossible three months ago.”
Milan’s three match winless streak, includes elimination from the Champions League by Spurs, a draw against Bari and a loss in Palermo.
“This derby is important but it’s not decisive, because afterward there will still be seven matches with 21 points up for grabs,” Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani said. “Whoever wins will have an advantage — it will be a significant lead if we win, a little less so if Inter does because they would go in front by just one point. But there’s also still Napoli and Udinese.”
Ibrahimovic’s ban for punching Bari defender Marco Rossi in the stomach was reduced from three to two matches, but he’s still out this weekend, leaving the attack to Brazilian teammates Alexandre Pato and Robinho, plus Italy international Antonio Cassano. Andrea Pirlo is still likely out in midfield due to a right knee injury.
Leonardo will also have to do without a key player, as defender Lucio is ruled out due to accumulated cards. Fellow centre back Andrea Ranocchia appears ready to play again after getting released from Italy’s training camp with a knee injury, although Cristian Chivu has a calf problem.
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While Diego Milito could return from injury and gain a spot on the bench, Inter’s attack should once again fall to Samuel Eto’o and Giampaolo Pazzini, who has scored six goals in 10 matches since transferring from Sampdoria in January. Pazzini also scored three goals with Sampdoria against Milan over the past two years.
Derby’s are always hard to predict as form usually goes right out the window. While this game is important to Inter, so is Tuesday’s Champions League quarterfinals against Schalke. For Milan though, this game is their season and I think that will be the difference, as they will be more desperate to win.
Prediction: AC Milan 1 Inter Milan 0