star wars / Serie A / J5 / Milan-Inter /

Together back at the top of Serie A, the two Lombard clubs face each other this Saturday, in a derby which has regained much of its flavor of yesteryear. Especially this season: with two coaches with assertive game ideas and an attacking style, Nerazzurri and Rossoneri – who each have 19 Scudetti on the clock – are fighting for a title that would be synonymous with a second star on their shirt.

In Italy we talk about Shield of Stella. The Shield of the Star. In Milan, we remember very well the first star that the club pinned to its jersey: at the end of a brilliant 1979 season, the diavolo beat Perugia at the post, thanks in particular to a very young Franco Baresi, who was already establishing himself as one of the most brilliant defenders of his generation. Side Interista, the memory is also intense. The tenth star, which dates from 1966, completes a cycle of domination that began in 1963 and concluded with a third domestic title in four seasons. It is also the last trophy lifted by Inter’s Helenio Herrera, whose catenaccio signature had ruled footballing Europe. Decades later, the two Lombard clubs no longer aim exactly for the pinnacles of the continent. But they have at least given themselves the means to climb the steepest pass in La Botte: the Shield and the second star which sits at its summit.

The international class

With each 19 championships on the clock, Milanisti as Interisti can aspire to add a new star to their distinguished jersey. If the decadent sports policy of Juventus will have helped the Lombard teams to regain the first two places in the championship in recent seasons, the Milanese teams have also started to work well again, each in their own way. After stealing the excellent Giuseppe Marotta from Juve to lead its sports sector, Inter tasted the delights of a national title under Antonio Conte, before putting Simonze Inzaghi in charge. A younger coach, more modern too, who wants a protagonist training, articulated around an offensive 3-5-2 and structured by clear, worked and repeated collective automatisms. Best attack in Serie A last season, Inter (3e, 1 point behind Atalanta, current leaders of the championship) is – with Juventus – the best armed team in Serie A. If it lost an important executive in the person of Ivan Perišić, it benefited from the return on loan from Romelu Lukaku, who forms with Lautaro Martínez what is arguably the best attacking duo in the country. Injured, the Belgian should nevertheless miss the derby and be replaced by an aging Edin Džeko.

The blue and black pistons guarantee a more nuanced performance: Denzel Dumfries on the right and Federico Dimarco on the left offer a significant offensive strike force, but also a quality of replacement still too often random defensively. The Nerazzurri often have to rely on the individual quality of their trio of central defenders to shield their backs: the elegant Alessandro Bastoni shines in the revival and anticipation, when Milan Škriniar has for several seasons been one of (if is the) best duel players in the championship. Once impressively serene, the Dutchman Stefan de Vrij had a complicated last exercise and must prove that he is capable of getting back on his feet mentally. Equally qualitative, the midfield nerazzurro is also not free from flaws. If Nicolò Barella – author of a splendid goal against Cremonese last Tuesday – has become a box to box reference, Hakan Çalhanoğlu has a much more intermittent level of performance. Keystone of the midfield, Marcelo Brozović is below his usual standards, at the start of the season. The Croatian would be well advised to gain strength against Milan this Saturday.

Devil’s mechanics

Rival’s Weapons rossonero are they less flashy, but at least as sharp. If he displays one unit less than Inter on the counter, the diavolo remains unbeaten in Serie A (2 wins, 2 draws) and still holding a protean game, where the guys from Pioli know how to press high, take possession, and play skillfully in transition. The typical red and black team remains substantially identical to that of last season, that of the title, its strong and weak points having not changed further. The left side remains incredibly dangerous, led by the doublet Théo Hernández-Rafael Leão, when their counterparts on the right, Calabria and Messias, are much more ordinary. In the cages, Mike Maignan still asserts himself as the best goalkeeper in the championship, well helped by an impressive axial doublet Tomori-Kalulu in the duels and difficult to fault in depth. Tonali and Bennacer offer technical and physical insurance in the middle, when the indestructible Giroud remains a weapon of choice at the forefront. The only major innovation: the recruitment of the Belgian Charles De Ketelaere, who alternates with Brahim Diaz to occupy the position of playmaker of the 4-2-3-1. The ex-Bruges prodigy has so far had a promising start to the season and his quality of passing could well put the defense at risk interista. It is therefore a tasty derby which is announced, between two teams which have been able to find a coherent sporting line and legitimate claims to the Shield. At Shield and a second star synonymous with a twentieth title, destined to remain more than all the others in the memory of the tifosi.

By Adrien Candeau

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