When two of the most respected and decorated teams in the Peninsula go head to head, the San Siro becomes a melting pot of passion. Milan triumphed 1-0 in the previous Derby della Madonnina, but this time out Inter has the home advantage and with an eight point lead over their city rivals, this is a match the Rossoneri can ill afford to lose.
Not only are the clubs draped in glory, the respective Tacticians also boast illustrious careers. Carlo Ancelotti has previously won the Scudetto whilst Jose Mourinho has won championship medals in every country he has worked, picking up a couple of titles with both Porto and Chelsea. In Italy though, the game is approached in a different way than Portugal and England and although the Special One is currently top of the crop, there is still a long way to go. Lets take a look at the tactics Inter’s Serie A rookie might employ against the experience of the Milan Coach.
Mourinho’s side is well drilled and disciplined and having only conceded 16 goals in the league this season have the best defence by a respectable margin. Though they are accused of being unadventurous in neglecting to commit men forward in search of goals, the seven point cushion at the top will delight the former Chelsea favourite, eager to silence his critics.
The Nerazzurri Coach though will doubtless head into this game with an air of caution, guarding against defeat, yet comfortable in the knowledge that a draw will suffice. He will adopt the favoured 4-4-2 with a flexible midfield unit with Esteban Cambiasso shielding the back four in a defensive set-up that has a dam-like barrier. Julio Cruz is likely to have recovered from the illness that kept him out of last weekend’s game at Lecce and is expected to challenge Adriano for the right to partner Zlatan Ibrahimovic in attack, though Mourinho may anticipate periods of Milan pressure and opt to utilise the Brazilian’s pace to punish his opponents on the counter-attack.
Much of Inter’s attacking prowess lies with their forward-minded fullbacks Maxwell, and in particularly the dangerous Brazilian, Douglas Maicon. The Special One will be concerned of the frightening pace in which the Rossoneri can turn defence into attack and will keep a reign on his fullbacks. Despite tempering their attacking threat down the flanks, the midfield trio of Javier Zanetti, Sulley Muntari, and Dejan Stankovic will attack the heart of Milan’s unsettled defence and look to latch on to balls played through the middle or get on the end of crosses whenever Ibrahimovic drifts into the wide areas.
Ivan Cordoba should return to partner Nicolas Burdisso after being rested against Lecce in favour of Marco Materazzi, himself still short of match sharpness following a lengthy lay-off through injury. The defensive lynchpins can expect to have a busy afternoon against a Milan side that must go for the jugular from the start. With the pace of Alexandre Pato, the invention of Ronaldinho and the penetrative runs from deep by the tireless Clarence Seedorf, the Rossoneri always pose a threat up front.
Ancelotti will be without his star playmaker Kaka and there is also a doubt over whether Andriy Shevchenko will be fit enough to face his former Coach following reports the former Chelsea striker is suffering from neck pains. One player virtually guaranteed to start is on-loan midfield maestro David Beckham. In his short spell with the club, the Rossoneri Tactician has described Golden Balls as “indispensable to us,” and the club have made it clear they want to keep the England hopeful by submitting an offer to buy the player from Galaxy and even going as far as including him in their UEFA Cup squad. Becks is clearly enjoying his time in Italy and looks reinvigorated from the dogged performances in the US. Having netted twice and created three for his new club, the former Manchester United winger will continue in the centre-right position and will look to feed the front three from deep with pin point precision.
Lining up alongside the new recruit will be Andrea Pirlo, returning to the side after sitting out against Reggina due to suspension. His job will be to protect a back line which will again adopt a new look following Daniele Bonera’s booking in the disappointing draw against Reggina. Paolo Maldini therefore is likely to lead his side out alongside Philippe Senderos, in the centre of defence although Ancelotti can welcome back Alessandro Nesta. The much-needed stopper has recovered from an agitating back problem and may be given a start in Milan’s faltering rear-guard, though his lack of match practice may persuade the Rossoneri coaching staff to think otherwise, but should the experienced centre-half impress in training this week, he could get the nod over his Swiss teammate.
If the red half of the city are to stay in the hunt for the title they must find a way to breakdown Inter’s mean defence. In open play this won’t be easy, if at all possible. However, this does not mean there is no route to goal. With free-kick specialists in the mould of Beckham and Ronaldinho in their line-up there is always the possibility of scoring from a dead ball situation. Pato is quick and with the ball played into feet will look to spin and turn his marker. If the Rossoneri play high up the pitch and press their opponents deep into their own half, they will get free-kicks in dangerous areas and should enough opportunities arise within range, they have every chance of grabbing the all important goal. What they must do though is keep Inter out at the other end, but by defending in numbers they will not allow a counter-attack. Ancelotti must second-guess Mourinho to force him to change his tactics and hope one of his all-stars come up trumps with a goal.