What: Italian Serie A
Who: AC Milan (1st; 62 points) vs Inter (2nd; 60 points)
When: Saturday 2nd April, 2011, at 19:45 UK time
Where: Giuseppe Meazza (San Siro), Milan, Italy

The Final Hurdle

Earlier in the season AC Milan looked as if they might have just secured the Serie A title in their first encounter against Inter, when Rafael Benitez was still in charge of the reigning Serie A champions. As the gap between the two city neighbours widened, the Scudetto appeared as good as decided. Surprisingly however, Inter have come back from behind under the guidance of former Milan great Leonardo and with two points separating the Nerazzurri from their red foes, the Rossoneri’s stay at the top is under potential threat.

Two points are hardly an advantage, especially given the way Milan have been playing of late. Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s absence following a suspension and their disappointing exit from the Champions League at the hands of English side Tottenham Hotspur have led the Italian giants to a string of bad results. A win against city rivals Inter would surely be a step in the right direction, but Milan’s second-in-command Adriano Galliani refused to confirm that this would be the league-deciding bout. “It’s important, but not decisive," the club’s vice-president stressed, "Afterwards there will still be seven games with 21 points to take.”

Back with a Bang

Inter looked as good as dead in the earlier part of the season. Forced by Rafael Benitez to play football other than their own, the Nerazzurri struggled for results, and it showed as the team looked a shadow of the one that conquered all under Jose Mourinho last season. With Benitez gone and Leonardo installed as his successor, it was back to basics for the world champions who have managed to slash the points difference with leaders Milan and make their city rivals feel uncomfortable. Given the gap was as large as ten points at one stage, Inter’s current position is a huge achievement in itself.

Indeed, the 2010 Champions League winners have a true chance of turning the tables when they face Massimiliano Allegri’s team in the 275th Derby della Madonnina. One player who will be relishing the game is Inter midfielder Dejan Stankovic, who praised coach Leonardo for the fighting spirit he has instilled at the Appiano Gentile: "Leonardo has a great personality, and around him, we are all happy. He has an excellent rapport with the players, and it is difficult not to give it our best on the pitch for him.” With the league race entering its latter stages, Inter know really well that a win will be vital to their resurrection.


Recent form

AC Milan:
Tottenham Hotspur 0-0 AC Milan (09/03; Champions League)
AC Milan 1-1 Bari (13/03; Serie A)
Palermo 1-0 AC Milan (19/03; Serie A)

Brescia 1-1 Inter (11/03; Serie A)
Bayern Munich 2-3 Inter
(15/03; Champions League)
Inter 1-0 Lecce (20/03; Serie A)

Key absences

AC Milan: Massimo Ambrosini; Filippo Inzaghi; Marek Jankulovski; Daniele Bonera; Zlatan Ibrahimovic (suspended); Andrea Pirlo

Inter: Christian Chivu (doubt); Diego Milito (doubt); David Suazo; Walter Samuel; Lucio (suspended)

Players to watch

AC Milan – Robinho: With Ibrahimovic missing this crucial match, it is up to the rest of Milan’s stars to take the mantle and guide the team towards success. Such a performer could be Robinho, who has vowed to score against Inter on the night. Having an abundance of tricks up his sleeve, the diminutive Brazilian could give the opposition’s defence a hectic evening.

Inter – Samuel Eto’o: Just when he had been forgotten, Samuel Eto’o made his presence felt in the recent double-legged knockout matches against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, greatly helping his team to reverse the outcome after the Bavarians won the first match at the San Siro. On big occasions the Cameroonian can be counted upon.

Match Prediction

How things have changed since the two teams met on the same pitch earlier this season. A Zlatan Ibrahimovic penalty proved to be the decider back then, yet the Swede will only have himself to blame if Milan need his influence here, as he misses the match after elbowing a Bari player. Inter have all the resources to upset Milan and turn their foes’ sweet season into a potential disaster, something that is likely to happen should the likes of Wesley Sneijder be given freedom to roam. Expect a final 2-1 scoreline in favour of Inter.

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