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Clash of the titans - A preview of the Milan derby
23.10 || ART

The derby match proudly considered by the people of Milan as the biggest in the world tops the bill in Italy as AC Milan defend their recent ascendancy against city rivals Internazionale at the San Siro.

Many cities around the world might contest that description but Milan can certainly claim the title as "best in Europe" as, unlike rival claimants in Madrid, Munich, Manchester, Glasgow or Liverpool, they can claim two teams who have won the two biggest trophies available - the European Cup and the Intercontinental Cup.

AC Milan, bankrolled and owned by Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, have won six European titles and three world titles while Inter have won two of each but the residents of Montevideo, Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo might still dispute the claim.

In recent years, AC Milan have had the indian sign over Inter who have not won a major trophy since 1998 (the UEFA Cup) and not lifted the Scudetto since 1988-9.

Reigning Italian champions AC Milan have also had the better of the derbies in that time with the trend perhaps most emphatically displayed in 2001 when they spanked Inter 6-0 in the derby at their shared San Siro home, the most one-sided match ever in a fixture with a 96-year history.

Both teams are riding on the crest of the wave in Europe and both have virtually sealed their place in the Champions League by winning the first three matches in their respective groups.

Milan continue to have the upper hand in Serie A and are second only to leaders Juventus while Inter are sixth.

However, there is a new feeling of optimism in the black-and-blue half of the northern Italian city and it has largely been engendered by the consistent brilliance of Brazilian forward Adriano.

Some are even having the temerity to suggest that Adriano is now the equal of his compatriot and former Inter team-mate Ronaldo who departed for Real Madrid amid much acrimony in 2002 shortly after leading Brazil to World Cup glory after two years when Inter had stood by him during a series of serious injuries.

AC Milan skipper Paolo Maldini admitted that he and his fellow defenders would have to keep a close eye on Adriano.

"Adriano and Ronaldo are both crucial players," he told club website www.acmilan.com. "But they are crucial in different ways."

Time will only tell whether the balance of power is truly shifting in Milan but a victory for Inter would certainly fuel the feeling in Inter coach Roberto Mancini's first derby since swapping Lazio for Inter in the summer.

Long-serving skipper Javier Zanetti admits he is looking forward to renewing acquaintances with the city rivals in the match known in Italy as the "derby della Madonnina" (derby of the little Madonna) in honour of the golden statue of the Virgin Mary on top of the city's majestic Duomo (Cathedral).

"I think there will be lots of goals," said the Argentinian to club website www.inter.it. "So long as we score one more (than Milan) that's the important thing.

"We are really looking forward to it because playing in the derby is a dream for all of us. I am in the same situation as my team-mates - I don't know if I will play.

"We have a squad full of stars and anyone could get the nod."





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