There was a time when it was the best next thing in terms of standout league games. Times when Inter and AC Milan met at the San Siro and the world sat up and took note, strapped on a seatbelt and prepared itself for a spectacle. Andriy Shevchenko going up against Marco Materazzi. Andrea Pirlo and Patrick Vieira about to do battle in midfield. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Alessandro Nesta gearing up for another hour and a half of going hell for leather.
If recalling those names offer up a reminder of how much history the Derby Della Madonnina has, it also shows how the fixture has drifted into something of a spent force. The decline of both Milanese clubs is surely the principal reason, not discarding the drop in standards, revenue and viewership of the Serie A, why the fixture has lost its touch, Inter playing in their first Champions League season since 2011/12, while Milan haven’t been in the competition since 2014.
In that time of absence, both teams have danced between Europa League and Non-Europa League playing seasons, hence when they’ve met in the recent past, it’s usually a convergence of mediocrity, two teams who’ll ultimately amount to very little, with the view from the outside being one of ‘keep your derby to yourselves, we’ll visit the San Siro when it hosts a Champions League final.
But are things changing? It’s outlandish to suggest this is finally a clash of heavyweights, with Milan just about holding onto a top half place and Inter look anything but convincing so far this season, it’s far from it. But there have been improvements; Inter may not be convincing yet, but the Nerazzurri haven’t lost in four games, and are in third place in the league, Luciano Spalletti’s side also having maximum points from their opening two Champions League games. As for AC Milan, if their most recent investors had them looking like a club again, then the appointment of Rino Gattuso as manager has them looking like a team once more. The Rossoneri may be in 10th place, but they are only four points off Inter in third, and have a game in hand.
These sort of storylines means this weekend’s derby clash between has quite a bit riding on it; for Inter their momentum and their grip on the top four, for Milan it’s the chance of keep on their neighbours’ coattails and also close the gap to the rest. Expecting the Milan derby to currently live up to its lofty heights of the past is probably a bit much, but the prospect of both teams creating new histories means you can’t rule out a spectacle just yet. Probably best to take a seat, world.
Elsewhere, Juventus hope to continue their perfect record as they host Genoa, who are under new-old-new manager Ivan Juric, Napoli aim to keep up the pace with a trip to struggling Udinese, while, speaking of struggling, 17th-placed Atalanta host bottom club.
Roma aim to continue their momentum as they host SPAL, Fiorentina welcome Cagliari to the Artemio Franchi, while new boys Parma, enjoying their Serie A return, host Lazio.
Roma v SPAL
Inter v Milan
Juventus v Genoa
Frosinone v Empoli
Bologna v Torino
Chievo v Atalanta
Sampdoria v Sassuolo
Fiorentina v Cagliari
Udinese v Napoli
Parma v Lazio