In the midst of a superb run of results, AC Milan face stuttering city rivals Inter in the “Derby della Madonnina” this weekend looking to haul themselves right into Champions League contention in Serie A.
Sunday’s game will be the moment of truth for Inter coach Luciano Spalletti, as amid claims of dressing room quarrels the club have still not fully emerged from the crisis of recent weeks, despite last week’s win against bottom club Benevento.
They occupy fourth position the final Champions League spot but Roma are just one point behind before they go to leaders Napoli. Milan are seven points behind in seventh.
Steven Zhang son of owner Zhang Jindong joined the Inter team at their snow-covered Appiano Gentile training centre this week, underlining the significance of the clash as they struggle for form.
“This weekend is the moment of truth,” said Inter centre-back Milan Skriniar of a game which will be followed by a home clash with Napoli.
“Certainly my stay at Inter isn’t linked to whether we qualify for the Champions League, although I’m convinced we’ll get there,” added the Slovak, who joined from Sampdoria last summer.
Inter should be boosted by the return of captain and top scorer Mauro Icardi as he targets his 100th Serie A goal. He scored a hat-trick when Inter won their last Serie A derby meeting 3-2 in October, but AC Milan took the honours in the Italian Cup in December, a Patrick Cutrone goal in extra time giving them a 1-0 victory.
Milan are unbeaten since then, and are currently riding high after back-to-back wins at the Stadio Olimpico during the week. Gennaro Gattuso’s side beat Roma in Serie A and then battled past Lazio 5-4 on penalties to reach the Italian Cup final, where they will face Juventus.
Undefeated in 13 games in all competitions, Milan know a win against their great rivals will bring them right into contention for a top-four place and Champions League qualification. -AFP