Serie A: Advantage Inter Milan in the Scudetto race as derby day beckons
After seemingly in cruise control of matters domestic and European a while back, the wheels seem to be coming off AC Milan’s season. After Tottenham Hotspur knocked the stuffing out of them in the UCL knockout round, Milan have suffered two consecutive blows in the Serie A as bottom club Bari battled to hold them at the San Siro and Palermo dealt them a severe blow away in Sicily to blow the Scudetto race wide open.
Beaten convincingly over two legs by London side Tottenham, AC Milan realized that their realistic dreams of silverware lay in the Scudetto, which they were firmly in control of ahead of week 29, with cross-city rivals Inter Milan constantly breathing down their neck. However, Bari fighting hard to salvage a draw meant Milan had to beat Palermo in the week 30 encounter to put an end to the blip. It wasn’t to be the case as defensive errors continued to haunt the Rossoneri and Dorin Goian’s strike ten minutes into the match sealed Palermo’s victory. Without the suspended Zlatan Ibrahimovic who is the totem around which the Rossoneri attack moves, Milan failed to impose themselves on the Sicilian side and saw their lead at the top of the Serie A cut down to 2 points after Inter’s victory on Sunday.
Defending champions Inter Milan, fresh from their spirited come-from-behind victory over Bayern Munich in the Champions League took full advantage of their rivals’ slip up and secured all three points against relegation battled Lecce to narrow down the deficit to the top. Not an entirely convincing victory as Lecce produced a few scares themselves, but Giampaolo Pazzini’s 52nd minute strike from a delightful lay off from Munich hero Goran Pandev was enough for the Nerazzurris as they head into the international break knowing full well that they can go top of the league come derby day in twelve days’ time. With Wesley Sneijder and Samuel Eto’o in devastating form, it’s advantage Nerazzurris at the moment.
With just two points separating the two Milan sides, the derby on April 2 will prove to be the title decider and predictions have started to fly in already. Milan will continue to miss the services of inspirational and physically imposing Zlatan Ibrahimovic through suspension, who has 14 league goals this season and whose penalty separated the two sides in the derby early this season. With the big Swede, the Rossoneri attack has appeared toothless in the last two matches. With all the hard work they have done previously in the season in building up a comfortable lead at the top being threatened to go waste, the Rossoneri will look to use the international break to clear their heads and come back raring to have a go at the resurgent Inter who seem to be an unstoppable juggernaut at the moment.
After all, Inter will out to get revenge for the defeat in the first derby earlier in the season and complete their Scudetto comeback by going top of the table by beating their mortal enemies after being left for dead during the Benitez era. With so much glamour, controversy and expectations pinned on it, we’re in for a cracker in as the ‘Derby della Madonnina’ kicks off in two weeks’ time at the San Siro. It’s game on in the Serie A!