Friday, October 30, 2020

Is Zlatan the man to stop Conte´s record-chasing Milan derby run?

SoccerNews in Serie A 17 Oct 2020

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Inter will be hoping to equal records when they meet Milan in the first derby of the 2020-21 season on Saturday.

The Nerazzurri have won the past four Serie A meetings with their city rivals and have only twice managed to win five in succession, in both 1979 and 1983.

They are also unbeaten in nine home league games against the Rossoneri, winning six and drawing three. Stretching that run to 10 would equal another club record.

Meanwhile, Antonio Conte is bidding to become the first Inter coach in history to win his first three derbies in all competitions and, given they won two and drew one of their first three games in 2020-21, it would take a brave soul to bet against them.

A brave soul is just who Milan have leading the line.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, now cleared to play after missing four games in all competitions following a positive coronavirus test, has reasons to feel confident against his old club.

The veteran has been involved in five goals (four scored, one assisted) in four league games for Milan against Inter, even though three of those fixtures ended in defeats.

Among active players, nobody can match his goal tally in this Serie A fixture: four with Milan, and two with Inter. A particularly profitable outing at San Siro would get him closer to the all-time record of 12, held by the esteemed former striker Giuseppe Meazza.

Beyond the goal threat, goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma says Ibrahimovic’s mere presence makes the prospect of facing Inter – a team they have not beaten in the league in almost five years – less intimidating.

“We all wanted him to be part of the match and that is the case. With Ibra on the pitch, Inter are less scary,” the 21-year-old said.

“He is excited for the derby and will help us. Doing well in the derby would give us a lot of strength in terms of the championship; we are still at the beginning but it can give us strength.”

Ibrahimovic certainly has a head for the occasion. Since his return to the club in January, only Edin Dzeko (23) and Andrea Belotti (20) have attempted more headed shots than Ibrahimovic (19), while no player has scored more headed goals (4).

Inter might be favourites, particularly given the form of Romelu Lukaku, who boasts league-leading figures of a goal for every 1.7 shots in Serie A this year among players to have at least 15 attempts on target. But there is no denying that, in 2020, Milan have found their groove.

Only Atalanta (56) have taken more points this year in Serie A and Stefano Pioli’s men are on a 23-game scoring streak in the league, their best since 1973. Indeed, since the coronavirus-enforced hiatus, no teams have scored more goals than the giants of Lombardy’s capital, who have each hit 42.

Milan are also chasing league win number 1,400, a tally only Inter and Juventus have previously reached. What better occasion to hit that milestone?

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