Inter vice-president Javier Zanetti told Gazzetta dello Sport this week that ‘the world once stopped’ for the Derby della Madonnina. While the global appeal of Serie A might have dulled a little, the first all-Milan affair of the season will certainly be watched as keenly in Beijing as it will be in the bars and restaurants of the Piazza del Duomo. Silvio Berlusconi and Massimo Moratti, the former chairmen of the two Milan clubs, may not be providing the bombast ahead of this fixture anymore, as they both decided to sell to Chinese investors in the past 18 months, but there is still something special about the game, especially given the Rossoneri’s summer spending spree which hasn’t yet borne fruit.
AC Switched Off For Gamble
Will Milan come good on Sunday night? Well, the oddsmakers are suggesting it will be a tall order. Inter are the nominated home team at the San Siro and are quoted at 23/20 to claim three points – something they haven’t achieved since winning 1-0 in September 2015. Both meetings last year ended in 2-2 draws – it is 11/5 the points will be split again this weekend (and 23/2 about the two sides sharing four goals equally). A Milan win trades at 49/20.
Backing Vincenzo Montella’s team seems a huge gamble – nearly as big as the one the new owners have embarked on. US hedge fund Elliott Management have reportedly loaned Milan transfer funds with an interest rate of 11.5 per cent. And while the source of both clubs’ finances has come under the spotlight recently – Suning Holdings Group, owners of Inter, saw their share price wobble in summer after Chinese State television questioned their investment in the Serie A club – the fact remains they remain two of the biggest clubs in Europe.
Inter Have License To Thrill
On the pitch, Inter definitely have the edge. The Nerazzuri are unbeaten this season, winning six of seven league fixtures and drawing the other. Mauro Icardi’s goals – six in seven starts (the Argentine is 6/1 to be the Capocannoniere and 17/20 to net over 25 goals) – have been a major factor in Inter’s resurgence, as has the form of Ivan Perisic. The Croatian can boast three goals, three assists, 18 key passes and ranks highly in all the key attacking statistical categories (no wonder Jose Mourinho was desperate to sign him for Manchester United in the summer). Luciano Spalletti has had a very productive start to life as Inter coach and he has developed a happy knack of leading teams to victory over Milan. Only once in his last 13 meetings have his charges left the field on the losing side – a 3-2 home Champions League defeat when manager of Zenit St. Petersburg in 2012 (he’s won all four since).
Pressure Mounting On Montella
Milan won their opening six games in all competitions, but in their biggest tests this term – away at Lazio and Sampdoria plus at home to Roma – they suffered defeat. Having spent £170 million on players this summer, in an attempt to bridge the gap with perennial champions Juventus and propel them back into the Champions League, the board and the fans have been unimpressed. New skipper Leonardo Bonucci, captured from the Turin club, has struggled to maintain his form, and with neither Andre Silva nor Nikola Kalinic hitting the heights of their standout seasons for Porto and Fiorentina respectively, Milan look a disjointed outfit playing with little freedom. Milan technical director, Massimo Mirabelli, recently said: ‘We haven’t given Vincenzo a timetable [to make things work], but we must deliver performances worthy of AC Milan, and not like our recent showings.’
No pressure there then!
Black And Blue To Feel Good All Over
Inter are 13/1 to win the title, which seems generous before you realise that Juventus (evens) and Napoli (6/5) have started even better than Spalletti’s men. However, at current odds they are serious value to beat their city rivals this weekend. Milan have too many good players not to get their act together in the key games at some stage this term, but the wind is in the sails of Inter at the moment, with Icardi, 18/5 to net the opener and 6/5 to score at anytime, bang in form. An Inter win to nil, at 3/1, looks a stellar bet, with the best correct score options 1-0 (8/1) and 2-0 (21/2) to the home side.