The Serie A season is barely three weeks old and one of the most anticipated matches of the season is already looming, as Internazionale hosts AC Milan (2:40pm ET Sunday on beIN Sports) in the first Milan Derby of the season.
Not long ago, the Derby della Madonnina could be a potential title-decider between two of Europe’s heavyweights, but this Sunday’s Milan Derby opponents finished 8th (Inter) and 10th (Milan) last season.
While both the blue and the red side of Milan have invested in their squads over the summer and said all the right things in terms of returning to the summit of Italian football, it remains to be seen whether either can actually do so. Of the two, Inter has certainly started off the season stronger, with six out of six points from the opening two rounds.
That said, Roberto Mancini’s men have been far from convincing in the early goings of the new Scudetto campaign. It took a last gasp effort from Stevan Jovetic to seal three points in the season opener against Atalanta. And although Inter came away with a win the following week against promotion side Carpi, it was far from easy going.
As rough as a start as it’s been for Inter, it’s been worse for Milan. A season opening 2-0 loss to Fiorentina was followed by an edgy 2-1 win over Empoli. While the Empoli win saw goals from two of Milan’s new boys -– Carlos Bacca and Luiz Adriano -– there’s still a prevailing sense that Milan, like their rivals Inter, haven’t really got it into gear yet.
Although when you look to Juventus -– two losses in two matches -– perhaps it’s not going that badly for either Milan team.
There is anticipation for Mario Balotelli making his second debut in an AC Milan shirt this weekend. That it will be against his old team Inter adds a bit of extra spice to things. Balotelli, erratic and unpredictable at the best of times, has always been a player for the big occasions and this Sunday could provide a chance for him to win his back into the hearts of the Rossoneri faithful.
On the Inter side, there is concern over the fitness of Mauro Icardi. The Argentine striker limped off in the Nerazzurri’s win over Atalanta. And while initially it had been believed he would be fit for the derby, Inter’s medical staff has been forced to admit that Icardi is not yet fully fit.
Inter will also be without Brazilian center-back, Miranda, who picked up an injury this week in a friendly against the U.S.A.
Italian derbies by nature are rarely high-scoring affairs. If there are any goals at all, the Milan Derby is likely to be decided by a single goal. Unless Milan coach Sinisa Mihajlovic is successful in playing a wild card like Balotelli, look for Inter to take advantage of being the “home team” in the stadium both sides share and come out the 1-0 winner.
Watch Inter vs. AC Milan at 2.40pm ET Sunday on beIN Sports.