Inter 3.3, the draw 3.4, Milan 2.1
Massimo Moratti is stuck between the devil and the deep black-and-white sea. On Sunday the team he owns and adores, Inter, face Milan in the Derby della Madonnina, knowing that one way or another they are set to do one of their greatest rivals a favour. Victory – or even a draw – could be enough to confirm Juventus as champions. Defeat, on the other hand, would put Milan in position to claim first place should the Bianconeri slip.
“This year we’re going to have to help one of them out,” Moratti told reporters with an air of resignation this week, insisting that he has no preference for one over the other. Even if he did, that wouldn’t have stopped him from wanting his own team to win this weekend – maintaining what slim hopes they have of a Champions League berth.
Defeat to Parma has dropped Inter to sixth, three points behind both third-placed Napoli – who would hold the tie-breaker if they finished level – but in a season such as this it would be foolhardy to give up too soon. Before Wednesday’s loss, their first under Andrea Stramaccioni, Inter had wiped out a 10-point gap to third in the space of six games. Milan’s own title hopes seemed to be fading as Juventus led Lecce after 84 minutes on the same evening, only for a Gigi Buffon blunder to reignite them.
The Rossoneri appear in the last couple of games to have come out of their post-Champions League slump. Defeat to Barcelona in the quarter-finals of that competition had been followed immediately by a home loss against relegation-threatened Fiorentina, then a draw with Bologna at San Siro a fortnight later. The return of Antonio Cassano following his mini-stroke last October, however, has provided a lift. He was instrumental in a 4-1 win at Siena, providing a goal and two assists.
There had been reports during that period of bad results of a growing tension between the manager, Massimiliano Allegri, and the owner, Silvio Berlusconi. Their relationship has always been a somewhat combative one, Allegri complying with Berlusconi’s suggestion in his first season at the club that he start combing his hair before interviews – but rejecting a demand that he find a way to incorporate Ronaldinho, Alexandre Pato and Zlatan Ibrahimovic into the same starting XI.
Berlusconi, however, phoned Allegri personally last week to reassure him that he had the club’s full support. Allegri’s pragmatic brand of football – deploying as many as three holding midfielders in his 4-3-1-2 – is not to the owner’s taste but as long as it brings results, an uneasy truce can be found.
And Allegri has for the most part brought results in the derby – winning his first three before finally tasting defeat in this fixture back in January. On each occasion Inter have had a different manager at the helm, and that will be the case again with Stramaccioni on Sunday. Allegri will need his team to neutralise Wesley Sneijder to stifle this latest rival’s plan. Stramaccioni identified the Dutchman as the player he has been most impressed with since taking charge, and has made him central once more to the team’s play.
It might be a cliché to say that derbies are unpredictable but in the case of this fixture it is also true, making this a tricky betting proposition. But if you’re looking for value in the scorers’ market then perhaps try Antonio Nocerino – who has struck in eight different games for Milan this season, yet is available at 5.0. If you want something different, then a side bet on there being a red card at 2.8 makes sense too. There have been eight sendings off in the last seven league meetings between these two sides.