As red prepares to do battle with blue at San Siro on Sunday evening, we look ahead to ahead to three key areas where the game will be won or lost.
Inter have made the more impressive start, sitting third in the table and still undefeated, while Milan have stuttered in their rebuild and lie in seventh. However, as we all know, form goes out of the window come derby day.
3. Leonardo Bonucci v Mauro Icardi
In a window where AC Milan acquired 11 new faces, it was the capture of Leonardo Bonucci which was most noteworthy. One of the most sought after defenders in Europe, accrued for a bargain price, seemed like the perfect piece of business to propel the Milanese sleeping giants back where they belong.
Fastforward two months into the season, and Milan fans are scratching their heads. Bonucci has looked a diminutive figure so far, compared to his all conquering days at Juventus. However, the Rossoneri faithful will be hoping that Sunday’s clash will reignite Bonucci’s flame.
His task is not an easy one; Inter represents Milan’s sternest test to date, boasting a formidable frontline spearheaded by the prolific Mauro Icardi. The Argentine will be looking to inflict yet more pain upon Bonucci, after scoring an impressive seven times in nine games against Bonucci’s Juventus (his second best tally against sides in the Serie A).
In essence, whoever comes out on top out of these two will go a long way in deciding the fate of the match as a whole.
2. Borja Valero v Franck Kessié
To summon in the new age of the Derby della Madonnina, fittingly the struggle in midfield will be between to new signings. However, that is essentially where the similarities end, apart from their shared ability to completely take over a game.
Borja Valero is the archetypal Spanish passing maestro. He purveys supreme distribution to his teammates with excellent technical skill, and can control the entire tempo of a game if he is permitted. He is also ageing, and has never possessed any kind of real pace.
Franck Kessié is a raw, dynamic and daring footballer. He is indeed a powerhouse in midfield, but also possesses an extraodinarily low centre of gravity, and thus an exceptional ability to weather challenges flying in before skipping past and launching an attack.
A large factor in who controls the game on Sunday will be determined by how each team deals with the threats posed by these two almighty players.
1. Vincenzo Montella v Luciano Spalletti
It’s fair to say these two managers know quite a lot about each other. Indeed, Milan coach Montella played under Spalletti for four years at AS Roma, during Spalletti’s first spell at the club between 2005 and 2009.
Montella’s first real job in management was as interim manager for Roma at the end of the 2011 season, succeeding the man who had previously replaced the sacked Spalletti in 2009, Claudio Ranieri.
Spalletti has faced his former player and one time predecessor three times in a managerial capacity, and has a 100% win record against him. What’s more, it is his Inter that go into this weekend as derby favourites, after picking up 19 points from a possible 21 in a competent start.
Certainly, it is still a work in progress, and he is still trying to imprint himself on the team and find his best XI, but he has been able to get results in spite of this. Compare this with Montella’s hesitant start to this campaign, not helped by a deluge of new faces to integrate and an owner anticipating success, and Spalletti looks to well and truly have the managerial edge.
However, with rumours rife that Montella is running out of time to save himself, don’t rule out the importance of this game for Montella’s camp as a factor in how his team well set up. Failure here may put him down an unsalvageable path, and there is no finer motivation than that.