After two weeks off for the international break, the Serie A is back with a bang, as Milan and Inter go head-to-head in one of the biggest fixtures on the calendar. Both of the Milanese clubs are coming off narrow victories over a couple of minnows. Milan outlasted Empoli and came away with a 2-1 victory, while Inter one-upped Carpi's late equalizer with a goal of their own and came away with a 2-1 win. Both clubs will face their biggest test of the young season this Sunday when they come face to face with their cross-city rivals in a sold-out San Siro.
Projected Milan XI
Projected Inter XI
Milan: Andrea Bertolacci, Jeremy Menez, M'baye Niang, Luca Antonelli
Inter: Miranda, Dodo, Nemanja Vidic
Mihajlovic's First Derby On the Red Side Of Milan
After playing two seasons for the Nerazzurri and spending two more as an assistant manager, Sinisa Mihajlovic severed his ties with Inter in order to become the manager of Milan. Mihajlovic once famously declared that he would never manage Milan because he is Nerazzurro at heart. Now, however, it seems that Mihajlovic has fully converted. This week at the official squad presentation at Casa Milan, Mihajlovic led the fans in chanting "Chi non salta Nerazzurro è", jumping up and down with the fans. Mihajlovic is certainly going to be on the receiving end of some hostility from the Curva Nord, and it will be interesting to see how he handles the pressure of leading his men into battle against his former team.
Lineup Changes For Inter
Mancini is expected to make four changes to the starting XI that beat Carpi two weeks ago. Mauro Icardi is set to return from injury and take Rodrigo Palacio's spot, but there are murmurs that Icardi isn't 100% healthy yet. Mancini is taking a risk by fielding two new signings in Ivan Perisic and Felipe Melo. Both players made the move to Inter in the last days of the window, and while both of them have had the bonus of an extra week of training courtesy of the international break, it's certainly a risk by Mancini to hand them their debuts in the derby.
In defence, Inter were dealt a devastating blow when it was announced Miranda will have to miss the derby because of a knee injury he picked up on international duty with Brazil. Miranda should be replaced by captain Andrea Ranocchia, who has yet to feature from the start this season. It will be fascinating to see how this new look works for Inter, especially because Inter have looked so good in the previous two weeks. If Mancini's lineup changes fail to yield a result, he'll bear the brunt of the criticism.
Kondogbia Faces Milan
Remember that day when everybody was reporting how Milan were about to sign Kondgobia and Jackson Martinez? Then remember the next day when Kondogbia turned Milan down to sign for Inter and Jackson Martinez decided to join Atletico? Ya, that was a pretty rough day as a Milan fan, and while Milan rebounded well when they lost Martinez by scooping up Carlos Bacca, they never really signed someone to make up for losing Kondogbia. Since spurning Milan for Inter, Kondogbia has been utterly underwhelming in the pre-season and in his first two Serie A starts. While there's still tons of time for him to make Milanisti rue the day they lost him, that time hasn't come as of yet. On Sunday Kondogbia will be stepping into the lion's den; expect to hear lots of whistles from the Curva Sud for the guy who picked Inter over Milan. Sunday would be the perfect time for Kondogbia to deliver a big performance.
Bacca and Luiz Adriano vs Ranocchia and Murillo
Bacca and Luiz Adriano are two quick, dynamic, modern strikers who excel at making incisive runs in behind the defence and love to press the opposing back line when they have the ball. Ranocchia on the other hand is a centreback who is slow, immobile, and clumsy in possession. On paper this looks like a favourable match-up for Milan. While Murillo has looked very good since joining Inter, he can't possibly cover for Ranocchia for a full 90 minutes in just his third Serie A start. Ranocchia can be effective when he's going up against a big physical number nine because he can use his strength and stature, but against two modern strikers like Bacca and Luiz Adriano, he will have his work cut out for him.
Diego Lopez vs Samir Handanovic
Two of Serie A's top shot stoppers will be looking to out duel each other on Sunday. Both men will be lining up behind suspect back lines, and their respective performances will go a long way towards determining the result of this fixture. Watching these two keepers duke it out in such a pressure packed environment will be a treat.
Perisic vs De Sciglio
Mattia De Sciglio will have quite the task ahead of him with Ivan Perisic lining up opposite him. De Sciglio has had a very positive start to the season, impressing in his first two Serie A games and performing very well in Italy's game against Bulgaria last weekend. Perisic poses a problem for De Sciglio because of his size and strength. Despite being a winger, Perisic is 6'2 feet tall and possesses an impressive blend of power and speed. It is no secret that De Sciglio often struggles when the game gets physical, and in order to contain Perisic he is going to have to overcome that deficiency. If De Sciglio can handle Perisic, it will go along ways toward stabilizing the defence.