The talking point of the week for fans from both sides of Milan is, of course, the impending Derby della Madonnina, which will be the first real test for either side this season. This is the time for the Nerazzurri to put the performance against Bari behind them and focus on getting the desired result against their city rivals and fellow Scudetto contenders.
Predictably, anyone and everyone connected with Inter has had their say this week, but probably the most poetic comment came from the unlikely source that is Marco Materazzi: “I can’t hear the noise of the enemy, but I can see the colours of the opposition” said the former Perugia man, ”The derby is always the derby, no matter where and no matter at what temperature it’s played in. The atmosphere will always be hot, whether you play in August or December.” He also echoed the sentiments of his manager, José Mourinho, in claiming that Milan are favourites to win this Sunday, despite Inter having beaten their rivals in pre-season. Inter President Massimo Moratti also shared his views on the upcoming match, continuing the cautious theme: “The challenge of Milan will be great, fantastic” he said, ”It will be a very important game emotionally, but it won’t lead to anything decisive.” Inter great Mario Corso was a lot more positive in his prediction, seeing an Inter victory inspired by the feet of Diego Milito: ”I think it will be Milito’s night. He is a great player, and I believe he will decide the derby as he will make the difference for Inter.” He then took a shot at one of Milan’s Brazilian contingent, scoffing: “Ronaldinho? I don’t think he can return to the player he used to be.” Let us hope that come Sunday morning he is not regretting those words.
One factor that could affect that outcome of the match, and one to which the Inter defence will do well to pay close attention following last weekend’s display, is the Serie A debut of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. The fomer Ajax striker has already been talking up his chances of grabbing a debut goal: “I have already scored against Inter when I was playing for Ajax” grinned the Dutch international, adding “ and [I] hope to do the same with Milan.” Huntelaar, along with Alexandre Pato and Ronaldinho will provide a tough test for the Inter backline, and with Samuel Eto’o and Diego Milito set to start for the Nerazzurri it promises to be a game defined by attacking talent rather than steadfast defence.
On the transfer front, Wesley Sneijder’s proposed move to Inter has turned into a bizarre affair with some sources suggesting that the player is refusing to leave the Bernabéu, whilst others claim that a deal has already been signed. This is not good news for la Beneamata, as they are in desperate need of a creative player and with this potential transfer dragging on and on, time they have to sign other targets is decreasing. Perhaps a sign of this desperation are the stories linking the Nerazzurri with Roma’s Júlio Baptista, a man whose performances are about as predictable as Antonio Cassano’s temperament. It is somewhat puzzling that a player who struggled at fifth-placed Roma last season is being considered as the man to add some flair to the reigning champions, especially when you look at his performances – specifically the two against Arsenal in the Champions League – another competition in which Inter are desperate to perform. Not that the man nicknamed ‘the Beast’ is without any positive attributes, however. On his day, he is a powerful and incisive player, able to score magnificent goals and works very hard for the cause, but Inter need a player that can give that sort of performance every week, and as such should really look at other targets first.
In a section that will henceforth be called ‘Mourinho Watch’, the big news is that the Inter Coach has made the news this week with some comments about Ramadan that have angered the Muslim community in Italy. Commenting on Sulley Muntari’s poor performance and subsequent early substitution against Bari, he said: “Muntari had some problems related to Ramadan – perhaps with this heat it’s not good for him to be doing this [fasting]….Ramadan has not arrived at the ideal moment for a player to play a football match.” Understandably, these comments provoked a reaction from Mohamad Nour Dachan – the president of the Union of Islamic Communities and Organisations within Italy: “I think Mourinho should talk a bit less” he stated, “A player who practices Islam does not perform less on the pitch because we know from the Institute of Sports Medicine that mental and psychological stability can give a sportsman an extra edge on the field.” The Inter Boss appears to be making an extra effort to make himself unpopular with as many people as possible so far this season.
Joking aside, and despite the comments from the Inter camp this week, the derby is a vital game for la Beneamata, as they want to banish the memory of last week’s performance as quickly as possible and prove to themselves and their rivals that they are still the team to beat. On Saturday we will have a better idea of whether the rest of Serie A should still fear Mourinho’s men, or come to the Giuseppe Meazza with a newfound sense of confidence.