At least twice a year, the football Gods shower hoards of AC Milan and Inter Milan fans with 90 minutes of nerve wrecking anxiety in the form of the Derby della Madonnina. Saturday is no exception as the Serpents of Milan face the Red and Black Devils for the first Milan derby of the 2019/2020 season, in what essentially would be a home game for the Rossoneri. Let’s take a look at what we could expect in this historic fixture, between the two Milan heavyweights.
Milan find themselves 7th in the league standings tied with Torino, Atalanta and Napoli with six points after winning two of their first 3 games in the league. The Rossoneri enter Saturday’s proceedings having reeled off two straight one nothing victories against Brescia and Hellas Verona respectively, following by a 1-nil opening day loss against Udinese at the Friuli Stadium. Though unconvincing going forward, having amassed only two goals in their first three games - one of the worst goal returns in the league, second only to Sampdoria - their defense has been astute, not only in the early stages of this campaign where they’ve let in only 1 goal, but all of 2019.
Goes to show the work that Romagnoli, Donnarumma & co. put in ⚫ pic.twitter.com/GKPDzqtFQD— Italian Football TV (@IFTVofficial) September 13, 2019
Milan have conceded only 17 goals thus far in all of 2019, good enough for top spot in all of Serie A. Milan have kept clean sheets in two of their last three games, a feat not accomplished until round 11 of the 2018/2019 Serie A campaign (that would be November).
Inter meanwhile come into the fixture winning all of their first three league games of the season and sit solely atop the Serie A table. They started off the campaign strongly with a convincing 4-0 trouncing of newly promoted Lecce, followed by a 2-1 victory over Cagliari, then by a 1-0 win over Udinese. As with Milan, they’ve also conceded only one goal thus far into the campaign. After their 4-0 demolition job of Lecce however, goals have been hard to come by for the Nerazzurri. They’ve scored a goal each in their last two games, the latter of which resulted in a draw in the Champions League against Slavia Prague. Both teams would be coming into the fixture on Saturday with streaks to maintain, but also with real questions to answer going forward.
Both Marco Giampaolo and Antonio Conte have fairly full rosters available to them for the derby, as only Davide Calabria is unavailable for Milan due to him receiving a red card in the dying embers of the Milan-Verona match.
Saturday would be the 171st Serie A meeting between the two Milanese clubs, with Inter winning 64, Milan winning 51 and 55 ending evenly between the two sides. The two teams have scored 602 goals between them in all official Milan derbies (not just Serie A), which Milan’s Andriy Shevchenko, the leading scorer in the derby with 14 goals.
Andriy Shevchenko is the top goalscorer of the Derby della Madonnina with 14 goals ⚫️⚽️ pic.twitter.com/FrFfUmzm6T— TeamMilanAC (@TeamMilanAC) November 20, 2016
Most recently, Milan have struggled in the fixture losing three of their last five Serie A derbies and drawing the other two. Milan’s last Serie A win in the fixture came on January 31st, 2016 with goals by Alex, Carlos Bacca and M’Baye Niang. Their most recent tussle in the league came in March of this year and finish 3-2 to the Narazzurri.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Milan - Gianluigi Donnarumma
The behemoth between the sticks for Milan is only 20 years young, but is already on his 5th senior campaign for the red and black of Milan and cemented his place as the starting goalkeeper and heir to the throne of Gianluigi Buffon for the Azzurri. Donnarumma has been one of the most sought after keepers in world football for the past 4 years and has been recognized as one of the brightest young prospects in world football. He is a player not without faults however, and one of his howlers came against Inter last year in the first derby of the 2018/19 campaign: a misjudged cross by Donnarumma leading to an easy goal by Mauro Icardi.
Donnarumma has been in superb form this season however and will be keen to make up for his error against their fierce rivals. Donnarumma’s distribution is key to Giampaolo’s system, as it provides a pressure release valve for teams pressing high. His passing must be precise as Conte’s Inter surely would not sit back and invite pressure as the past three opponents did. Continuing his clean sheet streaks will also be important to the youngster and the squad as securing this would surely give the team a boost going forward and a solid defense with which to continue to build.
Inter - Stefano Sensi
The miniature play-maker has been in remarkable form for the Nerazzurri this season, already matching his goal scoring tally with Sassuolo last season in just three games. He’s carried over his great play from the preseason into the regular season and surely is the man to keep track of for Inter.
His passing and dynamism is something that could give the Milan midfield lots of trouble if not tracked properly. His movement is also something Milan coach must be wary of as the diminutive midfielder pops up anywhere from his half to the opposing keeper’s box, on the right or on the left. His roulette against Cagliari, which afforded Inter a penalty has made it’s rounds on television media and social media alike.
If Milan are to contain Inter they must keep Inter’s talisman under lock and key.
Expect an open, fluid match with similar possession stats and multiple scoring opportunities for each side. The game would be decided by the defenses as both have been top of Serie A, not only this season but the entire 2019 calendar year. Milan being without Calabria may seem a problem, but Giampaolo confirmed that Andrea Conti, who’s been training well will definitely start and this would be the perfect opportunity to claim his stake for the right back throne.
Giampaolo: "Conti will play. It's a chance for him. He has been playing well. I get the impression he developed and improved a lot compared to few months. He's always been aware that he as to improve his defending and I'm convinced he's improved."— Milan Eye (@MilanEye) September 20, 2019
Though the narrative around Italian media has been that Milan struggles contrast Inter’s dominance, both teams have been experiencing similar difficulties up front as of late. Giampaolo’s Milan has performed better against more open teams however in the preseason and I expect nothing else in this match. Final prediction: Milan 2 - Inter 1.