Straight from the dark heart of Italy
October 18 1908: baggy shorts, square goal-posts, handlebar ‘taches, ball like a piece of cement, pitch full of English and Swiss gents.September 28 2008: baggy shorts, plenty of facial hair, ball like a balloon, pitch full of South Americans.Yes, the Milan derby is 100 years old, well give or take a month, and some things have changed since the two sides met for the first time, not even in Italy, but in Switzerland for the Chiasso Cup.
Jimmy Greaves nets in the Milan derby, October 1961
However, the desire to rub noses in it for the next four months or so remains undiminished.Ticket sales have been brisk, as they say, and good sense has prevailed, allowing Inter fans to attend what is Milan’s ‘home game’.However, much will depend on how the two teams approach the encounter. After all, it’s still early in the season, so although Inter are sitting top of the table victory will not mean a great escape.Milan are coming off a second consecutive league win and hopefully they are not thinking, “well, a draw would be fine and our pride would be felt intact.”It’s Silvio Berlusconi’s birthday on Monday and he’s already demanded victory to go along with saving Alitalia from going out of businessCarlo Ancelotti is under pressure from his employer to play Ronaldinho and Andriy Shevchenko, which does not bode well. Both look as weary as a model stumbling out of a post-fashion show bash and one hefty challenge from Maicon would probably leave Ronnie ending up like Ronaldo before him: a broken man.
Hot to trot: Alex Pato's ready to put Inter to the sword
Better for Carlo to stick with Clarence Seedorf, who as long as the weather remains mild, is capable of producing match-winning performances and Ricky Kaka – getting back to his dashing best – in support of the hot-to-trot Alexandre Pato.Apparently, fellow Brazilian Leonardo - now part of the Rossoneri backroom staff - has taken the youngster under his wing and his wise words have certainly paid dividends.Three goals in three games and now the chance to run rings around the labouring Marco Materazzi and Nicolas Burdisso: life is suddenly sweet for the Duck.Meanwhile, it’s all gone quiet with the champs. Jose Mourinho has been seen but not heard, leaving his assistant Beppe Baresi to provide the platitudes although it would be a surprise if he doesn’t have some routine ready for the pre-game press conference on Saturday.
Jose: Surprisingly subdued... for now
The derby may take centre stage this weekend but we could have a new team on top, with both Lazio and Atalanta just a point behind Inter. Lazio were back to winning ways in midweek in a 3-0 thumping of Fiorentina, and are at Torino while Atalanta must fancy their chances at AS Roma who are back in the doldrums after losing at Genoa.In-form Napoli and in-and-out of form Juventus should also maintain their charge for the top, in trips to Bologna and Sampdoria respectively.All in all, the Milanese derby has arrived at just the right time and if Berlusconi’s birthday wish comes true the league table may well have an unfamiliar look to it come Sunday evening.
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