Friday, February 22, 2013

Inter vs. Milan Preview: Luck Be a Lady

The Derby della Madonnina gets its name from a beautiful golden statue of the Lady Madonna that sits atop the massive cathedral in the center of Milano, il Duomo. She looks out over the city, and thus is believed to look out over the derby between Inter and Milan. While I was in Milano for the last derby, she was surrounded by scaffolding, symbolic of the rebuilding in Serie A, and specifically of AC Milan. I am not Catholic, and thus am not really aware of what I would need to do to invoke her spiritual blessings, so I hope that she is a bit of luck instead. That maybe, having been surrounded by improvements herself, her smile will find favor on the most recently renovated Rossoneri on Sunday. Please, la Madonnina, luck be a lady and shine on AC Milan.

Just because we are the Devils doen't mean Lady Luck can't shine down upon us
Heaven knows we need a bit of luck. After losing three straight derbies to our evil cousins, it’s our turn to earn back bragging rights. After beating Champions League hopeful Barcelona midweek, we need to humiliate the Europa League hopefuls that we share our stadium with. It’s only fair.

Luck may already be on our side in the significant injuries and suspensions Inter are facing for Sunday. Suspended are Juan Jesus and Pereira. Ranocchia is in doubt after a knee injury yesterday, and of course, Milito is out for the season. Cassano also took a knock yesterday, but I think he’ll do just about anything to face the team he smacked in the face after we helped him through his heart problems. Additional long term injuries include Samuel, Obi, Mudingayi, and Castellazzi. So Stramaccioni’s starting 11 will be weaker than usual.

The potential availability of the Frog could swing one way or the other for Inter

Of course, he’s still got players like Palacio and Guarin and Cambiasso who could easily punish us. Guarin, for example, grabbed a brace against Romanian side Cluj in the Europa League yesterday. When Fiorentina beat Inter 4-1 last Sunday, he lined up Handanovic; Zanetti, Kuzmanovic, Ranocchia, Nagatomo; Palacio, Guarin, Cambiasso, Juan Jesus; Kovacic, and Cassano. Probably Stramaccioni’s biggest struggle will be filling those defensive spots, but I’m sure he will be extra motivated to keep his personal tally against Allegri going and hand Milan’s manager his third straight loss against the young Nerazzurri coach.

Allegri had a much better week, with a league win against Parma and the resounding defeat of Barcelona in the Champions League. He also has the advantage of players coming back from injury or suspension, too. Antonini, Robinho, and Salamon all trained with the team Thursday, and Ambrosini served his one match suspension, so Allegri will have more players to choose from. He also has the wild card Balotelli who will probably have no problems punishing his former team now that he’s home. However, he also has to avoid overconfidence, and complacency after such tremendous success. Hopefully, the team will simply hone their focus from Wednesday and avenge the past three derbies with a fury that only i Diavoli can inflict.

Could they be unstoppable for Milan? Definitely decisive.

As of this writing, I do not know if El Shaarawy will have survived Barcelona well enough to play on Sunday. I know Balotelli will be available, and hope that Niang will get the nod, too. Our Triple Threat™ is just so crazy awesome, and I want to see what damage they can do to that weakened biscione defense. If that is the case, I suppose we could see another midfield with Ambrosini and Montolivo, but then Allegri will have to choose between the two Barca scorers, Boateng and Muntari, for the third spot. It’s hard to know if he’d start Muntari against his former team, he doesn’t often do that. And he could easily start the same defense of Abate, Mexes, Zapata, and Constant that played midweek, or he could also just as easily bring on fresh legs. I don’t know. I never know which Allegri will show up. Will it be the absent-minded tactics one? Or the genius mastermind that led the team to victory midweek? I would assume Abbiati has earned the starting spot for sure, if for no other reason than Amelia’s new baby born this week, but  who knows?

The Curva Sud invoking the true spirit of the Derby

The only thing I know is that this is payback for me. I sat in the San Siro in October, having traveled halfway around the world, and those snakes took full advantage of our poor form with a 1-0 win. This time, even if we need to rely on lady luck, I will be watching from home, but I want some payback. We need to solidify our third place spot, and our boys have been through hell and back this season. Having crawled from the depths of hell, if we can continue to climb the table by stepping on our serpentine cousins, then it will be that much better. Fear of snakes? This is Year Zero. We have nothing left to fear. With the hard work and focus they showed midweek and perhaps a little luck, our boys should take back the San Siro and take a valuable three points from our cugini. So please, la Madonnina, luck be a lady for AC Milan.

This post inspired by the music of Rammstein

Il Derby della Madonnina
Inter vs. Milan
Sunday, February 24• 20:45 CET (2:45)
This match is being shown LIVE on RAI in the U.S.
(check comments for stream links just before the game)