Milan have been in terrific form lately and have lost only once in the league since late September. With only six points separating them from their city rivals and with a game in hand, the derby could not have come at a more opportune time for the Rossoneri. Despite this there will still be a few concerns for the side before the take to the field on Sunday night.
5. Leonardo’s Inexperience
This point should not ideally be a concern anymore since the Brazilian Coach has shown his tactical acumen in the past few months. However, this will be his first big test as the Milan coach and it would be interesting to see how he copes with it. Mourinho has been a part of title races, fiery encounters for years and years now, and the Portuguese definitely has the psychological edge over his counterpart. In the last derby, Leonardo’s delay in subbing out Gennaro Gattuso was widely believed to be one of the reasons Milan were outplayed, as only moments later the Italian was sent off. If things are not going well on Sunday, Leonardo’s decisions will shape his side’s fortune.
The Brazilian shot-stopper has been brilliant in recent games but there are always question marks about his performance due to his ball spilling past. He has not truly shaken off his erring ways as was evidenced in the games with Real Madrid in the Champions League. Dida fumbled two easy takes and in the second leg it proved costly for his team. In Wesley Sneijder, Inter have a very potent long range shooter so Dida will have to be careful to mop up all shots. Should he spill any, Diego Milito is very likely to be lurking around to punish the Rossoneri. That being said in previous derbies Dida has been exceptional so Milan will hope that the trend continues.
3. Full Backs
The full backs for Milan will most likely be Ignazio Abate and Luca Antonini. The two have been playing more regularly of late as Gianluca Zambrotta has been injured and have done well so far. The Derby will thus be their true test against accomplished opposition. Against Juventus the threat down the flanks was almost neutered because of the Old Lady’s own difficulties. Abate in particular will have to be focused throughout the game as he is not a natural right-back. He is likely to come up against Pandev and the Macedonian’s pace might cause a few problems for the youngster. Antonini who has been good at going forward will have to watch out for Maicon and Balotelli on the left flank particularly during Inter’s ultra fast counter attacks.
The pressure factor for Milan is much higher than that on Inter. The Rossoneri know that this is the one big chance they have to really blow the title race wide open. The game in hand is by no means an assured three points against la Viola and this will be bother Leonardo and his men. There will also be an added desire for Milan to capture the Scudetto this season as both the Milan sides have now won 17 Italian Championships apiece. No Rossoneri will want to see Inter become the most successful side in the city (at least on a domestic level). This season is also the first since 2005-06, when they were finally penalized for Calciopoli, are the Diavolo serious contenders for the title and having won only one Scudetto in the Noughties they will be desperate to win it this year.
This is the single biggest worry for Leonardo. Alessandro Nesta’s fitness will only be determined a few hours before kick-off from the looks of it and this should be causing the Coach major palpitations. Nesta’s presence on the field will be crucial to keep the likes of Diego Milito quiet and should the Italian defender miss out there is no able replacement available. Kakha Kaladze and the should-have-retired-five-years-ago Giuseppe Favalli are the only options for the Rossoneri. Both these players are certainly of not enough quality to fill Nesta’s boots and Leonardo will be really up against it should the veteran fail the fitness test. Nesta’s partnership with Thiago Silva has been one of the main reasons for the Diavolo’s success so jeopardizing his long term health by rushing him for this game may not be ideal.
As can be seen both teams have a few problems heading into Sunday and each Coach will be trying to get his best team out on the field. With so much at stake in this derby we might just be served a spectacle in the Derby Della Madonnina.
500@Five – Derby Della Madonnina – Part One – January 22, 2010
500@Five – Derby Della Madonnina – Part Two – January 23, 2010