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Striking advantage for Milanese clubs
15.11 || Seamus

By Gabriele Marcotti

Strip away the tactical talk, the hype, the trophies and silverware and reduce football to its purest essence. What are you left with? Scoring goals.

The very best:
It is the simplest idea in the simplest game; indeed, its very object. And this early UEFA Champions League campaign has brought to prominence two of the very best goalscorers around, Internazionale FC's Hernán Crespo and Filippo Inzaghi of AC Milan.

Joint top scorers:
The two are the joint-leading scorers in this year's competition and, for both, this campaign promises to be something of a comeback season. Last year, they suffered difficult seasons, slowed by injuries, and disappointed by their respective clubs' performances in the league - not to mention their countries' displays in the FIFA World Cup finals.

Incredible records:
Inzaghi ended up with ten goals in 19 Serie A appearances, while Crespo scored 13 in 23 for S.S. Lazio before joining Inter in the summer. Respectable totals for mere mortals, but not for born goalscorers like these two. Lest we forget, Inzaghi has scored exactly 100 goals in 196 Serie A appearances, Crespo has done even better, registering 103 in 179 league matches.

Old masters:
However, with other strikers starting to take centre stage, there was a sense at the start of the season that, at 29 and 27 respectively, Crespo and Inzaghi were slipping out of the limelight. Perhaps that is why they were so quick to remind everybody this season that they are among the finest pure goalscorers around.

Milanese splendour:
The strikers' rejuvenated goalscoring class has seen a renaissance in football in Milan. Both Inter and Milan won their respective groups in the first group stage and the clubs are neck-and-neck in Serie A as well.

Glorious 1980s:
Milan has not seen two teams like this since the late 1980s, when the Rossoneri were winning the European Champion Clubs' Cup with Marco van Basten and Franco Baresi, while Inter, led by Lothar Matthäus, were capturing the scudetto with a record points total. There is even talk of Milanese football entering another golden era, like the one between 1962 and 1965 when the city won three straight European Cups.

Different strokes:
Yet while the clubs' strikers have plenty in common - not least a certain lack of appreciation from the football pundits - their clubs play very different football. Milan have introduced a possession-based game which, at times, can be intoxicating. Andrea Pirlo acts as the old-fashioned playmaker, with Rui Costa in the hole and Clarence Seedorf and Rivaldo free to invent and create. It is a free-flowing, attacking formation which yields plenty of chances for Inzaghi, the archetypal opportunistic sniper.

Traditional style:
Inter, on the other hand, are much more traditionalist under Argentinian coach Héctor Cúper. The foundation is a strong defence, protected by ball-winning midfield players such as Luigi Di Biagio and Matias Almeyda and an effective counterattack, based around the strong shoulders of Christian Vieri.

Goals win games:
Tactics and footballing philosophies aside, it still takes a goalscorer to win matches. And the Milanese sides have two of the very best in Europe at their disposal.

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