Derby days generally tend to be about more than just the 90-minute period during which the game is played, or even the day itself.
Generally speaking, long-term fans have grown used to compartmentalising the various symptoms: Wednesdays and Thursdays are brimming with anticipation, Fridays and Saturdays are a nervy crescendo, Sundays are plain intolerable.
The 276th Milan derby, however, has slightly differed from the norm, effectively beginning around a week ago with Internazionale’s attempt (in my opinion) to sabotage the Carlos Tevez deal.
Despite the long build-up, Milan fans should, on the face of it, be confident of their derby chances: having not lost a Serie A game since early October, they’re tied at the top of the table with Juventus following a surprisingly comfortable away win against menacing Atalanta.
Consequently, their odds are almost exactly half the price of Internazionale’s (at 23/20 compared to 47/20), who are a whole eight points behind and have so far failed to beat any of Italy’s elite teams.
At least, that would be the logical way of analysing the situation. But when do games of this kind ever make sense? Just ask PSG, who were subjected to a brutal 3-0 defeat at the hands of eternal rivals Olympique Marseille earlier this season, despite the two sides’ contrasting fortunes.
Can Internazionale triumph over their rivals? It’s certainly not out of the question, and nor is a draw, priced at 9/4. The Nerazzurri – who oddly enough have a date with OM in the Champions League next month – have certainly improved over the last few weeks and will be buoyed by Claudio Ranieri’s confident attitude going into the game.
Were the Nerazzurri to take the lead, (they’re quoted at 21/10 to do so in the first half), say through a corner, then shore up a back guard that has let in only one goal over the last five games, who’s to say they couldn’t pull off a win?
He does, to a certain extent, have a point when he says that Milan have more to lose: Internazionale’s disastrous start to the season (where they even floated above the relegation zone) has pretty much excluded them the race for the title.
Recently, bwin quoted them at 15/4 to finish higher than Milan, whilst the Rossoneri were priced at a shocking 3/20.
Under these circumstances, any win is a bonus for the Nerazzurri, while Milan will be looking to keep on level terms Juventus in the table at the very least.
So, were the Nerazzurri to take the lead, (they’re quoted at 21/10 to do so in the first half), say through a corner, then shore up a back guard that has let in only one goal over the last five games, who’s to say they couldn’t pull off a win?
Regarding set-pieces, Wesley Sneijder’s deliveries (were he to play) might make a difference, as could Walter Samuel, whose odds of 8/1 to net at any time are pretty tempting.
The Nerazzurri’s recent performance against Parma has shown them in a new, more aggressive light: Diego Milito seems to have rediscovered his form of old with a spectacular brace, while Ricky Alvarez is slowly beginning to justify his €11.75 million price tag, his first half against Parma a masterclass in how to skip past players and serve his strikers.
Remember, Milito’s “form of old” saw him net twice in as many derbies in the 2009-10 season, so keep an eye out on the 17/10 that has him scoring at any time.
As previously mentioned, however, Milan are still clear favourites. Last year, they mauled their cross-town rivals 3-0 in the second derby, opening the scoring after less than a minute thanks to Alexandre Pato.
Since then, Milan have, if anything, improved, while the Nerazzurri are a year older and full of untested talent.
Massimo Allegri is a shrewd tactician and has already proved that, despite numerous injuries and absences, he can steer his team to victory.
His side has played some fantastic football this season, scoring four goals against Barcelona in two thrilling encounters.
That said, which of Milan’s players look likely, or capable, of netting against Inter?
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (11/10 to score at any time) often blunders against big teams (though he scored a penalty in the derby last season), while Robinho’s accuracy in front of goal has suffered a lot since his move to Milanello.
What Milan really need is someone like Tevez, but Pato’s reluctance to move to Paris appears to have put paid to that move – meaning Inter are now back in the hunt, having pulled out of a race they entered late on… or something like that.
But anyway, with Milan set to be without the Argentine on Sunday, it could just be Inter who edge this one. After all, stranger things have happened in derbies.
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