Milan’s derby on Saturday could be the most enthralling, most unpredictable, and probably the strangest of them all with the Giuseppe Meazza an empty cathedral.
As a result of COVID-19 safety measures, there will be 1,000 lucky supporters only at the San Siro to watch Inter Milan host AC Milan. It’s will be so unfortunate for the other “unlucky” spectators not to watch the match live from the stadium as it comes at a time when both sides appear to be on the up after periods of stagnation.
The Milan derby could provide clues as to whether a challenge to Juventus’ nine-year stranglehold on the Serie A title will come from a Milan club. Consequently, some signs are already evident.
Last season, Inter Milan proved their worth by reaching the Coppa Italia semifinals and finishing runners-up in the Serie A and Europa League.
Despite the positive season, Antonio Conte was close to partying ways in August because of disagreements over the club’s management, market strategies, and communication.
Although COVID-19 hit their Chinese owners too, the Italian club was active during the transfer window. Something Conte will have appreciated.
On the other hand, AC Milan is unbeaten in 19 games in all competitions. The Rossoneri were the best Serie A team after lockdown. They finished the 2019/20 season with nine wins and three draws in their final 12 matches.
During the summer, things haven’t changed either. Milan is at the top of the table, scored seven goals, and conceded none. Also, they have navigated their way through Europa League qualifying.
Is the year for one of the Milan clubs to win?
If looking for the faintest hope of vulnerability at Juventus, then, point to the inexperienced Andrea Pirlo, a period of transition with youngsters Arthur, Kulusevski, and Chiesa fitting in and an obsession to win the Champions League.
Back to last season and during the transfer window, Inter Milan are the credible potential contenders. Conte’s side has filled the key gaps that prevented them from winning any silverware last season.
The lack of depth in midfield has been filled by Arturo Vidal signing and the return of Radja Nainggolan. Also, quality on the flanks arrived with Achraf Hakimi from Real Madrid and the return of Ivan Perisic.
Similarly, few in Italy consider AC Milan as the true title contenders. Their hope rests with Zlatan Ibrahimovic who has had a massive impact on the team. The Sweden forward has helped youngsters like Rafael Leao, Sandro Tonali and Jens Petter develop.
But, how fit will Ibrahimovic be over the course of the season having turned 39 this month?
Both sides are affected by absences more so because of the positive coronavirus cases.
Zlatan will be available having completed his quarantine after a coronavirus positive test while captain Alessio Romagnoli has recovered from the calf injury.
Six of Inter Milan players have tested positive including Ashley Young. It is believed the club will do everything to ensure Alessandro Bastoni is cleared to play.