‘The Derby is everything’. That is the headline the Corriere Dello Sport ran with on Friday morning, and it accurately conveys the significance of this event. Both Milan clubs, thankfully, look more like a version of their former selves as they approach this fixture. A full San Siro will welcome the two clubs and their star talent and, what’s more, both teams are in form. This is a fixture that could prove a spring board for the winner, a fact that simply adds its importance.
For Inter, it seems that nothing is ever plain sailing. Luciano Spalletti and the Nerazzurri hierarchy had, over the summer, built a talented team that had strength in depth. The talented Lautaro Martinez was added as back up for Mauro Icardi, while Sime Vrsaljko,Stefan de Vrij and Kwadwo Asamoah arrived to add steel to the back line. Keita Balde Diao and Matteo Politano added much needed speed and purpose on the flanks, whilst Radja Nainggolan was the standout purchase in midfield. All was in place for what many thought would be a genuine title challenge.
It wouldn’t be Inter if they didn’t at least try to make their supporters hearts race a little bit faster, and so it came to be in their first four games. An opening day defeat to Sassuolo was followed by them throwing away a two-goal advantage to Torino in blundering style. All thoughts of redemption after beating Bologna 3-0 were then dashed as they lost to Parma 1-0, leaving their hopes smashed amongst the rocks.
Since that day, however, things have changed. Spalletti may not have captured that cavalier brand of football he was able to showcase at Roma, he has instead been able to form a very pragmatic style that is proving hard to beat. They have won six on the bounce in all competitions, scoring eleven times and conceding just four in that time. Wins against Tottenham Hotspur and PSV in the Champions League have been a welcome addition in this period and leave the Nerazzurri facing their city rivals with confidence.
Perhaps the main worry for Inter is the significance this derby holds when looking at the fixture list moving forward. Just as many who frequent San Siro will not be surprised at the fact that this team can put a number of results together, they will also be equally aware of their historic ability to spontaneously combust. Who remembers the winter of discontent in 2017 and into January 2018? Once again, the coming months offer a worrying scenario as after Milan, Barcelona, Lazio, Genoa, Barcelona and then Atalanta all offer signs of foreboding.
Milan will still be wary of Inter and especially of Icardi, but they can at least this year take pride in the fact that they have, as Gazzetta Dello Sport said, a matador or their own. Gonzalo Higuain is exactly what the Rossoneri have been wanting for many a year, a striker who is capable of scoring over 20 goals in Serie A. Milan came through what was expected to be a testing summer with flying colours. Now under the stable watch of Elliot Management, they have entered the season with new purpose. Their project maybe a little bit behind their neighbours, but they have the foundations of what could be a very strong ‘Casa Milan’.
The sale of Leonardo Bonucci for Higuain and Caldara was a master stroke and with a young defence that could arguably be the blueprint for the future of the Azzurri in Gigio Donnarumma, Caldara, Andrea Conti, Alessia Romagnoli and Davide Calabria. The future is bright for the Rossoneri. Like Inter they didn’t get off to the best start, losing to Napoli in their first game. Subsequently they secured a good win against Roma, but then drew against Cagliari, Atalanta and Empoli as they struggled to find their feet. Against Sassuolo, however, it all came together and Gattuso’s side netted four times before scoring three against Olympiakos and Chievo. Even Giuseppe Bergomi warned his old team about the emerging partnership between Suso and Higuain this week.
The Derby Della Madonnina sees both teams at different stages of some very exciting projects. Both defences look better game on game but have showed that they can be breached this season. Both goalkeepers are superb but can make glaring errors and they have two Argentine hitmen who are more of making a difference.
The Derby to both teams, really does mean everything this year, as it will be used as validation that their project is the one that is the one that will propel them to the next level.