Can ‘intense’ AC Milan cope with Inter ‘abundance’? Historic highs and second stars at stake in Milan Derby – Eurosport

The Milan Derby rarely requires hype.

One of football’s most historic rivalries always delivers a colourful and chaotic spectacle, but Saturday’s clash at San Siro has another selling point – one that this fixture has never been able to boast before.

For the first time in the 114 years of history, AC Milan and Internazionale meet as the sole co-leaders of Serie A – live on discovery+, the streaming home of TNT Sports.

Considering both clubs’ bulging trophy cabinets – only Juventus with 36 titles have a better record than the two Milan sides’ 19 Scudetti – it’s a somewhat staggering first.

The obvious caveat is that we are only three games into the season. Nevertheless, the two rivals already look likeliest to prise the title from Napoli’s grasp after each taking a perfect nine-point haul thus far.

If either of the Milan clubs achieves that feat, they will be able to stitch a second gold star on their jerseys next season, as one is permitted for every 10 titles clinched. Safe to say, there’s no lack of motivation.

“Getting the second star would be a dream…it’s an objective,” Milan captain Davide Calabria said.

“We want to win, there’s nothing else we want more,” he added. “We’re in better shape heading into the derby than we have been previously.”

Inter aim for history

Milan fans will hope he’s right about the last part. Although the Rossoneri are fired up, their rivals are one win away from writing a piece of history that would embarrass their cousins.

Inter are bidding for a fifth consecutive Milan Derby victory, a feat never achieved before, and come into the game having racked up a record four clean sheets in the last four meetings.

That included, of course, back-to-back Champions League semi-final victories last season, but it was the two years from 2020 to 2022 that showed how pivotal these games can be in the title race.

In 2020/21, Inter ended an 11-year wait to win Serie A, and their 3-0 thrashing of Milan in February was as a decisive moment as it saw them pull ahead of their rivals before streaking clear during the run-in.

The following season, Milan took four points from the two head-to-heads – a return that proved key as they finished two points above the defending champions to wrestle the title off them.

After a bleak period where both of these storied clubs struggled, their meetings have regained serious consequence in recent years.

Milan ‘more intense’

So what of this season’s budding title race?

The two Milan clubs have looked the strongest so far, after both made a flurry of intriguing signings in the summer to add depth and cover areas of weakness.

Milan were particularly active, bringing in 10 new faces, and the likes of Christian Pulisic, Tijjani Reijnders and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have impressed early on.

“Change isn’t an ugly word. This is a more physical, stronger, more intense, more European Milan and we’ve seen that in these first few games,” said Milan owner Gerry Cardinale.

Comfortable wins over Bologna and Torino were followed up by an impressive 2-1 victory away to Roma before the international break – although they had England defender Fikayo Tomori sent off and he will therefore be suspended on Saturday.

That game was won by an outrageous piece of skill from Rafael Leao, who scored with a bicycle kick, and the Portuguese will again be central to his side’s hopes this season, wearing his new No. 10 shirt once adorned by the likes of Gianni Rivera, Ruud Gullit and Clarence Seedorf .

“It was the right time to take the shirt… it is the number of Milan greats,” Leao said.

Stefano Pioli’s side could be criticised last season for looking lopsided, with the threat of Leao and bombing full-back Theo Hernandez down the left far exceeding that on the right.

But the arrival of USA star Pulisic from Chelsea, who has started strongly with two goals in three games, has changed that and Milan’s attacks are now split almost evenly down the left and right.

“It was love at first sight, I’ve never come across passion like this,” Pulisic said of his move, before declaring that he “dreams of scoring or making an assist” in the derby.

Inter’s ‘abundance of talent’

For many, Inter started the season as title favourites, and their squad depth is the envy of every team in the league.

“They are playing well and having fun. They have an abundance of talent and the players who come off the bench are very strong,” said former Nerazzurri stopper Marco Materazzi.

There is a lot of change for Simone Inzaghi – this week nominated for The Best FIFA men’s coach award – to deal with, as stalwarts like Romelu Lukaku, Marcelo Brozovic, Edin Dzeko, Milan Skriniar and Andre Onana have left.

But Inter replaced then well, with Yann Sommer, Davide Frattesi, Marcus Thuram, Davy Klaasen and Benjamin Pavard the headline summer signings.

Thuram heads into the derby on the back of scoring his first goals for Inter and France in the space of a week, while Frattesi netted twice for Italy in their win over Ukraine.

Goalkeeper Sommer, meanwhile, has been doing his homework.

“All Milan’s strikers, from Leao to Pulisic, are dangerous and strong. I am studying them in detail, trying to predict all possible situations on the pitch, including penalties,” said the Switzerland international.

While the new faces are always intriguing, it has been a member of the old guard who has lit things up for Inter so far – Lautaro Martinez.

The new Nerazzurri captain has stepped up in a big way, making his best-ever start to a campaign with five goals from three games.

On a night when several players on the pitch will be experiencing the Derby della Madonnina cauldron for the first time, it could well be the familiar battle of two Milanese totems – Lautaro and Leao – that decides who draws first blood in the potential title race to come.

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