The top two in Serie A square off in Sunday’s derby at the San Siro For the first time in a decade, the Milan giants occupy the top two positions in Serie A heading into the city’s derby, which is the 174th between the duo. Considering this, it’s fair to say that Sunday’s showdown is the biggest meeting between the two heavyweights since that fixture in 2011, when AC Milan defeated Internazionale in the title race. Their victory ended the Nerazzurri’s five years of success, but since then, neither of the pair have clinched the league title, with Juventus enjoying a remarkable period of domestic dominance.
This time round, however, the Milan pair occupy the top two spots, with Inter on 50 points, leading their neighbours by one point. As Juventus—two defeats in their last five league games—continue to look short under Andrea Pirlo, will this be the year when the Scudetto returns to Lombardy?
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was rested for Milan’s Europa League draw with Red Star Belgrade in midweek, as Mario Mandzukic made his debut, but the Swedish superstar will be back leading the line for the derby. Sandro Tonali returned to action from the bench following a brief injury, in midweek, although Brahim Diaz remains absent with a hamstring problem. Inter’s only absentee is Stefano Sensi, who will be missing with a muscle injury.
Inter have the stronger recent derby record heading into this one, having won four of the last five meetings between the pair. However, Milan won the first match between them earlier this season and will be desperate to do their first double over their city rivals since 2010-11. The improvement between the Milan giants this season has been startling; to date, they have a combined 99 points—16 more than they did at the same stage last term—although there’s a fear that the Rossoneri are turning the corner. AC Milan have lost three of their last seven matches, and must prove that their fragility is a thing of the past.
Considering how decisive a defeat could prove in the title race, neither of these two will countenance a loss on Sunday, so expect a cagey encounter. Milan’s midweek exploits against Red Star—albeit with a much rotated team—could prove decisive, with Inter set to be fresher and better rested heading into this one.
Similarly, while Milan got the better of Inter last time around, the Nerazzurri will be in better recent form, and have lost just once in the league since mid-October.
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