Ibrahimovic return adds spice to Milan derby


Milan (AFP) – Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s return to AC Milan will add spice to the city derby against Inter Milan on Sunday with the Swede looking to thwart Antonio Conte’s side from keeping pace with Serie A leaders Juventus.

Ibrahimovic played his first Milan derby as an Inter player 13 years ago, while his last was for rivals AC Milan in May 2012, when he scored a double in a 4-2 defeat.

Ibrahimovic was the top scorer that season with 28 goals but Milan lost the Serie A title to Conte’s Juventus, the first in the Turin giants’ current run of eight Serie A titles.

The 38-year-old’s return to Milan — who he helped to their last Serie A title in 2011 — has proved a boost with his side now eighth, seven points adrift of the Champions League berths.

Milan were on a three-match winning run with Ibrahimovic on the pitch but were held 1-1 by Hellas Verona last weekend with the Swede out with flu.

AC Milan director Zvonomir Boban praised Ibrahimovic’s impact, insisting the Swede was pushing to be ready for “a unique derby”.

Ibrahimovic meanwhile posted on Twitter a video of himself roaring, with the caption: “Lions don’t sound like humans.”

Stefano Pioli’s Milan come up against an Inter who have been transformed since Conte’s arrival last summer are just three points behind Juventus, who travel to Hellas Verona.

Milan lost the reverse fixture 2-0 in September under Marco Giampaolo, who was sacked after just seven games.

Last summer Inter signed Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sánchez, the latter on loan, from Manchester United.

Conte again raided the Premier League during the winter break bringing in Christian Eriksen, Ashley Young and Victor Moses.

“He’ll be more used to this type of game, I’m just starting,” said former Tottenham midfielder Eriksen of Ibrahimovic, who said he was relishing his first ‘Derby della Madonnina’.

“I’ve seen it on TV in the past but playing now will be very different,” the Dane told Gazzetta Dello Sport.

“Compared to London, I expect a different atmosphere, here the whole stadium sings, there will be so much noise, it will be beautiful.”

– Ronaldo in Verona –

Juventus travel to Verona on Saturday will Cristiano Ronaldo bidding to extend his scoring streak to nine consecutive league games, to keep pace with Lazio’s Serie A top scorer Ciro Immobile’s 25 goals.

Verona are on a seven-game unbeaten run and held in-form Lazio to a goalless draw in Rome midweek.

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