It seems that over the last fortnight, not a day has gone by without another Nerazzurri player being excluded from the Derby Della Madonnina. It is true that all clubs are suffering from the effects of Covid-19, injuries due to the tight schedules and fatigue from gruelling flights after International games but Inter have been hit hard. So, as the teams prepare to walk out into the empty belly of San Siro on Saturday, they will have to look for to the experienced players to get them through against Milan.
Milan Skriniar, Radja Nainggolan, Ashely Young, Roberto Gagliardini and Ionut Radu are all out after testing positive for Covid-19. Stefano Sensi is suspended, Matias Vecino is injured and both Lautaro Martinez and Alexis Sanchez will be checked late on as he is fatigued from International duty. Andrea Pinamonti and Marcelo Brozovic have also been tested for the virus and await results at the time of writing. That leaves Antonio Conte weakened but not without options. Alexis Sanchez could cover for Martinez alongside Romelu Lukaku up front, the wing-backs of Ivan Perisic and Achraf Hakimi remain unchanged, Samir Handanovic will start in goal and the midfield of Brozovic, Barella and Arturo Vidal is strong enough. Defensively however, they will have to fill in.
Danilo D’Ambrosio and Aleksandar Kolarov will have to fill in as center backs either side of Stefan De Vrij and that could be a weak spot. Or will it? Alternatively, one could look at this as justification for Antonio Conte’s policy of signing experienced players. In a season that will be fraught with changes, the Nerazzurri can enter the pitch and look around seeing hardened veterans. Inter’s squad depth is not based on dragging in the primavera, these are players who have been there and done it, they are would not be phased by this game even if there was a full San Siro.
One of the more experienced players who will be key in this Derby and highlights just what improvement Conte has brought to this team is Danilo D’Ambrosio. In truth, he was improving under Luciano Spalletti but the work he is putting in under his new coach is an example for any young player at the club. He has educated himself in the art of playing center back in the 3-5-2 and arguably looks more at home their now than he did at wing-back. He is playing with a new intelligence and his fitness levels are superb for a man of 32. His self-discipline would make Javier Zanetti proud as you can see he puts the club and the shirt first.
Another man whose attitude has impressed many is Ivan Perisic. Admittedly, he left for Bayern Munich under a cloud as amidst rifts with other players and staff alike but he has returned with a new attitude and is playing in a new position without any qualms. The new wing back has to improve defensively but this is something he is capable of and his experience will be invaluable. Maybe it was the Bavarian air or the fact that German discipline but he came back to Milan with a treble to his name and that cannot be sniffed at.
Finally, few people were waving flags and swarming the airport when Kolarov and Vidal arrived but that does not mean they are of no use. They were brought in for times like this, when injuries and results of the pandemic have shattered teams. Like Napoleons Imperial Guard, they will fight to the last for the cause and there will be no shirking in the Derby. The Chilean has seen it and done it at the highest level and Kolarov’s technical ability and intelligent way of playing will be of comfort to Conte. Inter have leaders in this team as well as younger talented prospects, depth really could be key this season.
This has never been more so than in the last two seconds of writing. Even as this is penned, Perisic will have to be evaluated for a knee injury but again here comes experience. Mattia Darmian can slot in and take this position giving good defensive cover. The simple point is, is that this is what Conte wanted, this is what he stakes his Inter career on. Now he can order his Imperial Guard forward on mass, the old faithful, the men who have seen every battle. Let us just hope that this is not his Waterloo.