It’s a huge weekend in Serie A with two of the peninsula’s biggest games taking place. Of course the main focus will be at the San Siro, with the top two contesting the Derby della Madonnina.
The Rossoneri come into the fixture with the wind in their sails having plundered 12 goals in their last three games, slashing Inter’s lead at the top to just six points – with a game in hand. It’s a remarkable transformation from the early stages of the season when Milan couldn’t buy a goal, and lagged well of the pace of their great rivals. The change in fortunes sees Leonardo’s men not only favourites in many people’s eyes to win this game, but also favourites to go on and win the Scudetto.
Milan have certainly welcomed in the new decade in spectacular style. Their three-pronged attack of Ronaldinho, Marco Boriello and David Beckham have gelled immaculately, especially the buck-toothed Brazilian. In last week’s 4-0 demolition of Siena, Ronnie produced arguably his finest display for the club, scoring a hat-trick and creating numerous chances for himself and his teammates. He now looks to be back to the player that terrorised Europe during his pomp at Barcelona, fitter and hungrier than before. Siena – having ran Inter close the week before – were swept aside by il Diavolo’s incisive attacking, which largely involved Dinho ghosting around his favoured forward-left position. His third goal was a sublime drive from the edge of the box into the top corner and oozed class and confidence from a player who will have a big say as to where the spoils go on Sunday.
Whilst Milan are winning with gloss it’s a case of getting the job done for the Nerazzurri at the moment. Having snatched a last-gasp win over lowly Siena, they required another late show to rally from two down at Bari last weekend, and with injuries compounding the issue further, the timing of the derby favours their neighbours. However, Jose Mourinho and la Beneamata have that uncanny knack of getting results. Results mean points, points mean prizes, although the ultimate prize of the Scudetto still has a long course to run.
Also with contrasting fortunes are Juventus and Roma who clash in Turin aiming to cement their Champions League places. Ex-Juve boss Claudio Ranieri has performed a marvelous job since taking the Giallorossi reigns, ushering them up to third in the table, two points ahead of his former employers. Il Lupi is on the back of an 11-game unbeaten stretch in contrast to Juve’s appalling form losing four of the last five. New recruit Luca Toni opened his Roma account with two goals in week 20’s 3-0 win over Genoa. The Bayern Munich loanee will be a valuable asset in Roma’s pursuit of Champions League qualification, and Ranieri is looking to join him up in an attacking trident with Francesco Totti and Mirko Vucinic. It may be a case of attack being the best form of defence at the Olimpico di Torino, as la Vecchia Signora are having grave difficulty themselves in front of goal. Their latest defeat, 1-0 to Chievo, was notable for a complete lack of opportunities created by Ciro Ferrara’s side, and this has been the case for some time now. Ranieri was consistently lampooned during his time with the Bianconeri, so it must give him great satisfaction to see them struggling so much, especially with Ferrara’s hand being well bolstered pre-season. The Neapolitan tactician has been spared the axe by the Juventus hierarchy, but as we’ve been saying for a while, how long can this stay of execution last? How ironic then, should Ranieri put the final nail in Ferrara’s coffin?
Sampdoria will try to end a sequence of eight winless games without Antonio Cassano. The striker has been dropped from the squad to travel to Udinese with Luigi Del Neri describing his decision to leave Fantantonio behind as a ‘technical matter’, with Del Neri then bizarrely concluding he needs ‘more physicality and less quality up-front’. This comes on the back of a reported verbal altercation between the pair at the club’s training ground on Thursday, claims the club acted swiftly to dismiss. It’s not the first time the pair have failed to see eye-to-eye, and a conflict between them whilst both at Roma hastened Cassano’s departure from the club. This season has seen Cassano struggle to recreate his form of the previous two years at the Luigi Ferraris, but even still the decision will not sit well with the blucerchiati faithful simmering about the teams recent slump. The matter will do Cassano’s slim Azzurri hopes no good, as Marcelo Lippi has yet more ammunition about his attitude and behavioural problems.
It’s transfer deadline next week and so far, as usual, it’s been a fairly quiet January. Antonio Candreva has completed his loan move to Juventus from Udinese in time to face boyhood heroes Roma, while former Barcelona striker Maxi Lopez has moved to Catania. Otherwise activity has been thin, which doesn’t stop outrageous speculation such as Daniele De Rossi moving to Real Madrid or Adrian Mutu to Manchester City.
Finally, thank you to those generous folk at ESPN who have made their channel free this weekend. You will be able to watch all the action unfold as both the Juve-Roma and Milan derby will be screened live. So, sit back, relax, enjoy.