Valerio Pennicino - Getty Images
Last season, Inter dominated Milan in all but overall table standings. We beat our cross-town cousins club wide, from our tiniest youth teams all the way up to our first team. The 0-1 win in our away match was perhaps the best thing Cladio Ranieri did for the club, while the thrilling 4-2 win in our home game cemented Stramaccioni's new position at the club. What will this derby bring? Glory or heartbreak?
What: The most important game of the season, Take 1
Where: La Scala di Calcio, the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza (San Siro)
When: The Day of Destiny or Sunday, Oct 7, 8:45pm local time (11:45pm pacific, 2:45 eastern)
How to Watch: Live on RAI International, beIN Sport, and beIn Sport Espanol (outside the US? check here). If none of this works, find a stream (try Wiziwig.tv)
Liveblog: ABSOLUTELY! Join us here at the Inter Offside 15 minutes before kickoff. We have solved the problem with the frames and are ready to rock! KIRBY HERE! TRYING SOMETHING NEW TODAY. TO GET TO THE LIVEBLOG, PLEASE FOLLOW THE FOLLOWING LINK. AS JOHONNA SAID, WE GO LIVE 15 MINUTES BEFORE GAME TIME. SEE YOU SOON!!!! >>>>>>>>>>>>Click Here<<<<<<<<<<<<
This first derby will be Milan's home game. Unfortunately, they often win this one. Not usually, but roughly half the time:
In the spring of 2011, Milan showed a flagging Inter that Clarence Seedorf still had game. I blame myself for this loss terrible 3-0 loss. I was at this game and somehow, some way, I am sure that played a role in our loss (plus, I had a terrible head cold, I was miserable.). It was Cassano's first Milan Derby and he celebrated in style: with a goal and a red card, all in the space of about 10 minutes. Even so, they kicked our butts and the tram-ride back into town was full of crowing Milan fans and resigned Interisti. We knew when we had been beaten.
To balance that, there are times like last season, when Cladio Ranieri did one good thing by leading us to a 0-1 victory. It was dull but it got the job done. And I think we all remember our stunning Matchday Two 0-4 win in 2009. That was the game Wesely Sneijder walked off a plane and into our hearts. It also showed Italy that Jose Mourinho meant business.
I guess what I mean to say by all of this is that no matter the standings, no matter who eventually wins a scudetto or finishes 7th, this game can go either way. Both Inter and Milan play this game to win and with every ounce of their hearts and souls. And I expect Sunday to be no different.
Here is really the best moment of that 0-1 win last season:
Milito really does like to score against Milan. Since he has joined the club, Milito has had six goals in seven Serie A derbies, including a hat trick last season. No pressure, but it would be great if he got another tomorrow. Goal that is, a hat trick would be pure gravy.
For more statistics that you can swing a cat at (the Inter Offside does not condone swinging cats - no cats were injured during the writing of this blog), check out my new favorite football webpage, Who Scored. I especially like the Team Characteristics section. It really helps me organize my thoughts.
|More epic derby victories, Oct 2006. This one ended 3-4 with goals from practically
everyone. That Matrix header was off a Figo free kick. Bellissima! via www.inter.it
I am not even going to bother with a THEM section here. Gianfranco's AC Milan Offside blog is just a click away if you are curious. I know they did well against Zenit in the Champions League midweek, and if this makes them the favorites, I am happy for them. I much prefer to come at these games as the scrappy underdog. Somehow, being classified as the favorite always makes me that much more nervous. Oh, I did read that Silvio wont be at the game, he is going to Putin's birthday party instead. What a fair weather fan. Yikes.
|There is so much I love about this photo... And then I notice Strama has a tattoo!
What a badboy. via www.inter.it
AND NOW ON TO ALL THAT IS RIGHT AND GOOD IN THE CITY OF MILANO: FC INTERNAZIONALE
Where to begin... How about call-ups.
Stramaccioni has called 23 players, basically, everyone that is fit is on the list:
Goalkeepers: Handanovic, Castellazzi, Belec;
Defenders: Zanetti, Silvestre, Ranocchia, Samuel, Juan Jesus, Jonathan, Bianchetti, Nagatomo;
Midfielders: Guarin, Mudingayi, Cambiasso, Obi, Gargano, Pereira, Duncan;
Forwards: Coutinho, Palacio, Milito, Livaja, Cassano.
Palacio makes finally makes his return. Remember the last international break? When he got that "slight knock" while training with Argentina? Well, he has been out since that loss against Roma September 2nd. Over a month! Slight knock my ass. I hate international duty. Anyway, he is back now although I dont know how many minutes he has in his legs. If he plays at all, I suspect it will be from the bench. Nagatomo also looks like he recovered from whatever was ailing him midweek. Good news because if I see Jonathan anywhere near the pitch of the San Siro tomorrow, I may have to fly to Milan and have words with Senior Stramaccioni.
Going the other way are Chivu and Ricky Alvarez. Chivu had to have surgery on his recently broken toe. I guess it wasn't setting correctly. Anyway, he will be out for another month at least. Ricky, on the other hand, is having some muscle fatigue related to being out so long with the knee thing. He is being eased back into games so was left off the call-up list. Sneijder is on his way to the US for rehab, while Deki is out for who knows how long with the ligament thing. Mariga got called up for a friendly with his National Team, Kenya, this week. Good news for Mariga, not so good for Kenya as he had to remind them that he is still healing from tearing his cruciate ligament last spring. He declined the call up and is staying in Milan.
|Come on Milito, we need you to wear your scoring boots tomorrow. via www.inter.it|
The press seem obsessed with which team should be considered the favorite to win this tie. They asked Strama after the Baku game, suggesting that the win against Neftchi made Inter the favorites and that usually the underdog won the derby. Presented this way, of course Strama said that Milan were the favorites. He clarified that statement today, adding:
"That was a joke because your colleague said it's normally the underdogs who win. I think it's hard to say who is favorite because both teams have changed a lot since last term. I see it as one of those matches where any result is possible, it's impossible to predict. If my players are more experienced than his, then he certainly has more experience than me, so I guess we can say we're even."
And it wasn't only Strama who was trying to claim the underdog status. Allegri tried to claim that label for Milan in his presser as well, saying:
"I think that the derby is a game apart and there are no favorites even though generally, the team ahead in the league is favorite. They have five points on us and so they're the favorites... We know it'll be difficult as they have players of great international experience. We'll have to play a big game and be a lot slier than them."
(see what I do for you all... I actually went to the AC Milan page and read that whole presser just so you all would have to. That's how much I love you.)
I find this whole back and forth lowering of expectations sort of funny. I know that both coaches are trying to be grown ups and truthful, and both are generally respectful guys, but a part of me longs for the Mourinho-type coach. Mou would maybe admit that his team was not the favorite, but he would always follow it up with "but we will win anyway" or something similar. Sometimes I miss the certainty of that sort of coach. In a sense, they make a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. If the coach always says that his team will win, and they do start to win, they will unconditionally believe him when he tells them they will win the Champions League final 2-0 and they will make that happen. But I digress (again). It seems to me that despite what the coaches may think (or say), I think Strama's second statement is the most truthful. This game is about belief, want, and guts. Whichever team has the most, whichever coach can motivate his team the most, they will come out on top.
That said, Milan are totally the favorites to win this. We are in a rebuilding year with tons of young players, a very young coach with hardly any experience, and a whole bunch of injured players. Yep. Inter = underdogs. Before you all get mad at me about this, think about it: being the favorite comes with tons of pressure to win, then, if you lose, the criticism is unrelenting. As underdogs, Inter come onto the pitch with nothing to lose. If we win, it is a glorious victory, David beating Goliath, a triumph for the little guy. If we dont win (I wont use the L word here), then it is still ok, we weren't expected to. Growth year. Rebuilding. Yadda yadda yadda. Going into this game as the non-favorite is a win-win for Inter. Trust me.
FUN FACT: Our keeper, Samir Handanovic is the younger cousin of Jasmin Handanovic, the keeper for Sloveninian team Maribor. He stopped a penalty against Lazio on Thursday (although Maribor still lost 1-0). Both cousins play for the Soveninian National Team. They may even get to face each other in the Europa League.
This has been a though season for GIPATI. Since it was re-instated, no one has won coveted title of the Grand Imperial Poobah of All Things Inter. The midweek game was nearly impossible to predict because most of us had never even heard of a few of those youth players Strama brought to Baku. Now we have the other, more enviably, problem of too many starters for only 11 positions. Sneijder is out so it seems likely that Coutinho will get a start... unless Cassano gets that spot. In goal, it has to be Handanovic. In front of him, though, I am not so sure. Ranocchia and Juan Jesus have been really growing into their positions and Samuel makes a nice third. He brings experience to the pitch. He was great against Fiorentina, and, after staying home midweek, should be rested and ready. Does he get a start? Or is it Cambiasso again back there? I'm sure that I couldn't say.
Now, the midfield is where things get really complicated. I have no idea where to begin. It was hard when we only had midfielders and the occasional forward to think of, but now, with Strama's penchant for throwing defenders up here, I have been wrong every single time I try to pin it down. The forwards are slightly less confusing, simply because we have so few of them. Milito and Cassano will see some time, I'm sure, but what about Palacio? He is fit again but has had very little pitch time this season so far. As I said, I haven't gotten Strama's starting 11 right once. Not on my own and not cribbing from La Gazzetta, but I am sure there are plenty of you who can prevail where I have failed. Go on, take a stab. One of us has to be right sometime, I'm sure.
|I am sure he is saying really insightful and interesting things, but... holy cow... what the
is up with his hair?!? He looks like Pee Wee Herman. Ugh. via www.inter.it
So where does all this leave us? With two teams, both struggling to some degree to regain former glory; both ending an old cycle or beginning a new one, depending on how you look at it; and both desperate to show the world that they are on the right track. Allegri may be fighting for his job, but as Belusconi seems to have lost interest in the club, so long as he doesn't get the team relegated, he should be ok. Stramaccioni has been carefully downplaying the significance of this match, pointing out that whatever the outcome, it will be a learning opportunity, but I think he is just as desperate to show that he is a coach to be taken seriously and not just someone with a 100-million euro squad and a few lucky wins. He wants to show that Moratti was right to give him the first squad and that Inter are here to make some noise this season. Still, I dont expect this to be a pretty game. There is too much desperation and not enough easy confidence for that. If we do win, though (when?), I think the rest of the league will finally sit up and take notice. If we do win, perhaps we will all start to believe that Inter has finally turned the corner, that we are on the way up from our rock-bottom of last season. If...
What to sing during the game