Straight from the dark heart of Italy
The motorways back into Milan will be jam-packed this weekend as weary holidaymakers drag themselves away from their summer vacations – and a good number will be hopping in their cars that bit earlier.
The Milanese face a choice: have an extra day at the beach or get back for the derby.
Of course, it will be a sell-out – eventually, as in five minutes before kick-off, but everyone will get there in the end.
It's difficult to get your head round a derby when the city is so deserted and newspaper coverage is thin.
But then the buzz around the game never reaches the hyperbole surrounding the Rome derby.
How different things could be if the Jose Mourinho and Leonardo switched roles.
Jose and Silvio Berlusconi would have them rolling in the aisles with their straight-guy, funny-guy act. while Leo and Massimo Moratti would be more than happy to play it straight.
That crazy couple - what will they do next?
On the face of it, it looks as if neither coach is suited to their owner’s perception of how football should be played.
After Milan surprised themselves by winning at Siena in the opening game, everyone was harking on about on well Ronaldinho played.
Was Mr Berlusconi leading the chorus-line in a merry dance of approval? Of course not, and the cavorting cavalier was quick to offer Leo some advice on the way he saw things.
“I would have played Clarence Seedorf as well – in the hole behind Ronaldinho, who would have supported Pato.”
NEWS, August 25: Silvio questions Milan formation
Now, that would have been some hollowed-out expanse, as both Ronie and Clarence suffer nose-bleeds if they ever have to go back across the halfway line when an attack breaks down – leaving the Rossoneri somewhat short-changed in midfield.
Across town, how the former Chelsea boss would love to be in such a position of having only two in midfield.
After Inter’s dreary 1-1 draw at home to Bari, Mr Moratti was lamenting the fact that maybe his side could have been a little more prudent after taking the lead.
Moratti’s dad conquered the world playing counter-attacking football and his son was full of praise for the way Milan employed that tactic in the latter stages down in Siena.
Not really what your coach wants to hear – or, for that matter, your chief rival across town.
Imagine if Silvio had Jose in charge. And let’s say the pair are enjoying a hearty pre-game lunch.
Silvio: “So today, what is it? Huntelaar, Inzaghi, Borriello and Pato up front; Pirlo, Ronaldinho and Seedorf in support and I suppose we'll have to have three at the back.
Jose: “You read my mind, boss. Any chance of signing Lucio? We may need an extra man up front early on in games.”
Meanwhile over at Inter, Moratti and Leo would be quietly contemplating whether to play Samuel Eto’o or Diego Milito as a lone striker, supported by no one.
"Steady on - a striker?!"
The reality, of course, will be somewhat different, especially now that Wesley Sneijder has finally given up the ghost on remaining at Real Madrid and decided that 4 million euros a year is enough compensation for having to move to Milan.
That should put a smile on Jose’s mug as the little Dutch master will form the tip of his diamond formation – ensuring that Javier Zanetti, Dejan Stankovic, Thiago Motta, Esteban Cambiasso (when he’s fit again in about a month), Sulley Muntari (when Ramadan is over) and Patrick Vieira (well, maybe not) have plenty of running to do.
Don’t be surprised to see Sneijder thrown into the fray on Saturday – and derby debutants have a history of coming up trumps: Kaka and Ronaldinho both scored in their first city derby outings.
It could be case of perfect symmetry out there on the green expanse of the San Siro and what a engaging sight that would make.
The midfield three on each side fight for possession, the full-backs attempt to tip-toe along the flanks like someone trying to avoid an over-talkative neighbour while the two trequartiste skip around looking for the space to release the front two.
It’s enough to get anyone home early from the beach.
And talking of “home,” weren’t the football gods kind in ensuring via the Champions League draw that Ibra, Kaka and Sammy can’t get away with sneaking out the back door without saying goodbye?
Who said romance is dead – odds on plenty of boos for Ibra and cheers for Ricky: just like old times really.
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