Milan remain on top of Serie A yet their hold has become more tenuous than ever with city rivals Inter lurking just two points behind. The Rossoneri have some of the league’s most talented individuals such as Robinho, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Antonio Cassano, but along with that talents comes a lot of baggage and unpredictability.
Robinho has often missed chances which would make even those again the Rossoneri shake their head in disbelief while Ibrahimovic has often disappeared when needed the most. Zlatan was having a fantastic season and for over two months he was the main reason behind Milan’s rise to the top as his goals were decisive. In recent weeks, the talented Swede has looked like a shadow of the player who tormented Serie A defenders earlier in the campaign.
As for the Nerazzurri, the club parted ways with former coach Rafael Benitez and hired former Milan boss Leonardo as a replacement. Benitez cannot be blamed for all of Inter’s early season problems as injuries, fatigue from having key players such as Wesley Sneijder involved in the latter stages of the World Cup, the departure of Mourinho and the lack of signings contributed to the inconsistency prior to 2011. With players such as Andrea Ranocchia and Giampaolo Pazzini added to the squad along with the change in the coaching staff combined with Sneijder’s return to form, fans and pundits have witnessed Inter’s slow yet methodical surge in the league standings.
With eight rounds remaining, the Rossoneri and Nerazzurri will most likely keep the title in the city of Milan for another season. Third place Napoli are just one point behind Inter yet their schedule includes hosting Lazio, Udinese and Inter as well as trips to face Palermo and Juventus. Napoli’s tricky fixtures could potentially rule them out of the title race unless the two Milan clubs draw in their upcoming clash while Napoli grab all three points against Lazio. This could give the Partenopei the much needed boost as they have struggled when facing the top sides, losing twice to Milan and once to Inter. It is hard to envision Inter losing to Napoli a week prior to the end of the season because the Nerazzurri have a winning mentality and can cope better with pressure.
Going back to the Milan-Inter clash in the next round, this could be decisive in the title race (and you can get tickets for the Milan derby on TixDaq). A victory for the Rossoneri will effectively eliminate Inter from the race. A draw would not change much but would probably favor Inter despite being two points behind their city rivals. The Nerazzurri have momentum on their side, particularly after the stunning comeback win in Germany which ousted Bayern Munich to retain Inter’s hopes of defending the Champions League trophy.
In addition, Inter’s results have improved since the loss to Juventus with the club winning five out of the last six matches. On the other hand, Milan are struggling following a draw with Bari and a defeat to Palermo. The Rossoneri have also been eliminated from the Champions League and their star player Ibrahimovic was sent-off against Bari prompting a three-match ban which sees him miss the clash with Inter.
One other factor playing to Inter’s advantage is the fact Leonardo has experienced coaching a big club before, ironically with Milan, while Massimiliano Allegri is having his first coaching job at the helm of a powerhouse. Leonardo is familiar with some of the Rossoneri’s weaknesses and will be plotting for the downfall of his former team.
Finally, Milan’s new faces such as Cassano and even Robinho have yet to completely get on the same wavelength as the rest of the squad. Inter have the same core players and their new acquisitions have blended well with the squad.
Once again the key to the Scudetto race might be the Milan derby with the Rossoneri having much more to lose since the Inter players are playing with confidence, a fact backed by current form in Serie A and the progress in Europe. For those who argue Inter’s players will be tired from playing two more matches in Europe, the point is negated by the fact these same players have successfully dealt with this issue last season. Moreover, continuing to win in Europe will build confidence as opposed to early elimination.
April 2nd will be a decisive clash for both clubs but more emphasis will be on Milan not losing because playing away at Udinese on the last day could prove to be a daunting task under the pressure of achieving a positive result.
To discuss Milan-Inter clash or Serie A in general, feel free to contact me on Twitter @RamiSoufi