As adequately put by La Gazzetta dello Sport, “if the 2007-08 season were a steeplechase, Inter would be damn well near a perfect run at this point“. The Nerazzurri’s ride to full-points had a few bumps down the road (the SuperCoppa Italiana defeat to Roma, and the Champions League away loss to Fenerbahce). But other than that, the Internazionale train has been running full steam ahead and is looking for one more victory to cap the year off. What perfect opportunity than the Derby della Madonnina (which effectively, given the holiday season, is more like a Derby di Natale a.k.a Xmas derby) against rival cousins AC Milan. On the one hand we have AC Milan, recently-crowned World Champions in Tokyo, and on the other the Campioni d’Italia and 1st-ranked team in Serie A. So for Inter coach Roberto Mancini, those that have the most at stake on Sunday will be Inter.
“It’s a derby” said Mancio to Gazzetta. “As such, it will be a very particular match. (…) A derby in of itself is already an important game, but that fact this one takes place on December 23rd makes it even more special. (..) It’s a game between two greats of the Serie A, there will be plenty of room for show on the field. Both Inter and Milan have the right players to make a difference”.
The Inter coach talked about his way to approach the match. “Tension? It’s there, but I’m keeping it hidden in the name of fairplay. I have much respect for Carlo [Ancelotti], but it’s normal that there be a rivalry between the two teams. Personally though, I don’t feel the rivarly with AC Milan. The only rivalry I’ve ever felt heartily about was that with Genoa, when I was still playing [with Sampdoria]. So in that sense there’s not much that can bother me.”
According to Mancini, the key players of the match will be the award-winning stars of the season so far: the best Swedish player of the year and the multi-award Ballon d’Or, FIFPro etc. etc. winning Brazilian star, respectively Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Kaká. “They’re definitely the ones to keep an eye on tomorrow“.
“To take this match like a cup final“. That is the mental approach to the Inter-Milan derby for Rossoneri coach Carlo Ancelotti, who instead of heavy technical or tactical preparations, could perhaps use a session in psychological readiness. Indeed, in the last 6 months of the year AC Milan became successively European Champions then World Champions, yet their 22-point difference from their rival cousins Inter could give the Rossoneri some sort of “inferiority complex”. Their coach Carletto Ancelotti talks about it.
To beat Inter, we will need to play a perfect game. It’s not a final, but a very important match for Milan’s season: we have a duty to get closer to the top-ranking positions. (…) Our victory in the FIFA Club World Cup was important, and allowed us to prepare this match with a serene mind. we just had enough time to recover physically, so the derby comes at the right time for us. When they published the Serie A calendars we weren’t very happy with it, but the fact that we won the World Cup is a good momentum-builder for the derby“.
In other words, the Rossoneri coach is far from panicking, or from beind scared by the Black & Blue armada. “Inter have a few problems in midfield, yet they manage to overcome those with a formidable defense and offense. Do they have any weak spots? Maybe they do, but they’re pretty good at hiding them“. For Ancelotti, Inter’s approach to the game from a rankings point-of-view will be very different that the Rossoneri’s “They need the 3 points of this match to maintain their lead over the other teams, while we need them to reduce the distance between us and the 4th [Champions League-qualifying] spot“.
Regarding the starting line-up, the Italian coach still has a few details to iron out. “I have still some doubts regarding the wings, namely whether I should pick Oddo or Bonera on the right and Jankulovski or Maldini on the left. I also have to decide who to pick between Brocchi and Gattuso, who hasn’t practiced all week [due to an injury problem]” (…) Inter have had great consistency so far, and have been a formidable striking force. Personally I think that in the direct match-up there isn’t such a big points difference between us, so I hope it will be the same on the field, that it will be a balanced battle“.
It’s no surprise the Milan coach also considers Ibrahimovic and Kaká the key players for the match, the Swedish striker in particular as one of the number 1 threats to neutralize. “Nesta and Kaladze give great reliability to our central defense, but we must give our defensive line a little more help, by reducing their distance from our midfielders. We can’t give Ibrahimovic one-on-one situations. Both he and Kaká are in large part the determining factors for either team“.
Finally, Ancelotti commented on the tactical set-ups (Milan’s should, with very little surprise, be once again the 4-3-2-1 Xmas tree formation… how appropriate for this month). “They could play with 3 strikers up front, you say? If you have 3 strikers and play an offensive match, that’s an advantage. If you’re forced to defend yourself, it’s a disadvantage. It will all depend on what kind of game AC Milan will play, but in any case we always play with 3 strikers (note: one lone striker and Kaká-Seedorf to support)”.
Kick-off at 15:00CET (9:00 ET) Sunday. Tune in your TVs/Streaming Channels!