Local rivals AC Milan and Inter Milan go head-to-head this evening for the first of two legs of this much-anticipated UEFA Champions League semifinal at their shared home, the San Siro stadium.
With Roma and Juventus battling out in the last four of the Europa League and Fiorentina having made the Europa Conference League semifinals, this big fixture which ensures a Serie A side will reach the UCL final for the first time since 2017 has many soccer pundits suggesting that we’re now seeing a renaissance of Italian football.
Inter are currently fourth and AC Milan in fifth in Serie A, suggesting this match is all set to be a tightly contested affair.
Inter may have a potential advantage, however, with AC Milan star Rafael Leão looking a major doubt. The Portuguese winger is set to have a late fitness test on an injury picked up against Lazio at the weekend.
Who has more domestic silverware?
When it comes to the question of which Milan club is bigger, the most obvious yardstick to turn to is silverware. And in domestic terms, Inter have the upper hand – albeit not by much. They have won 34 trophies in the Italian game, three more than their arch rivals. The clubs are level on 19 Serie A titles and seven Supercoppas; it is the Coppa Italia that separates them. Inter lead 8-5, and could lift the Italian cup for the ninth time this term: Simone Inzaghi’s men face Fiorentina in the trophy decider on 24 May. In domestic terms, Inter are widely considered to be a bigger deal than their neighbours – so much so that the title ‘derbi d’Italia’ is given to their clash with Juventus, who are the country’s most popular club. It’s a view that has much to do with Inter’s deeper history of success; Milan didn’t enjoy their golden age until the 1980s and 90s.
Who has more international trophies?
And it’s down to their illustrious turn-of-the-century period that Milan can justifiably consider themselves the more significant club in the eyes of the wider world. Of the Rossoneri’s seven European titles, five have come since 1989. In this time, Milan have also won all five of their UEFA Super Cups, two of their three Intercontinental Cups and their only Club World Cup. By comparison, and while it’s true that they have also won three UEFA Cups, Inter have ‘only’ three European Cups to their name, two of which were won back in the 60s. It is worth noting, though, that Inter were the most recent Milan club to lift the continent’s most prestigious trophy, in 2010. Since then, neither side has made it back to the Champions League final. In terms of the clubs’ previous meetings in the competition, there have been four: two victories for Milan and two draws.
But the diminished version of Lukaku back at Inter on loan is no match for Dzeko in this mood. The 37-year-old used his vast experience to his advantage to lead overmatch Milan centre-backs Kjaer and Fikayo Tomori a merry dance. The opening goal showcased strength, imagination and impeccable technique, while Mkhitaryan’s second would not have been possible without Martinez’s dummy and Dzeko’s run pulling Tomori out of position.
Dzeko now has 14 goals for the season on the back of a brace against Verona in his previous outing. Against Milan, he and Martinez played as a genuine strike partnership, providing the sort of dual attacking threat you rarely see in the elite game today. They would pose enough questions of Real Madrid or Dzeko’s old employers Manchester City in the final.
The clubs’ history is a major factor in the image they have in Italy – although the associations born out of their origin story have, over time, been diluted. Inter were founded in 1908, nine years after their rivals, after a breakaway by 44 members of AC Milan, which at the time was known as the Milan Football and Cricket Club. Opposed to Milan’s decision to ban foreign players from turning out for the team, they created Inter, whose name – Football Club Internazionale – reflects their commitment to embracing overseas players. With Milan left as the team of the Italians, and Inter filled with foreigners employed in Italy’s banking sector, their rivalry came to be seen as the club of the local working man vs the club of the country’s moneyed elite. Things have moved on a bit since then, however. Milan are now majority-owned by a billion-dollar American investment firm, while Inter’s financial backing comes from China.
Silvio Berlusconi’s 31-year tenure as Milan president, during which the Rossoneri won 29 trophies, had a major influence on the club’s charisma – but also people’s reservations about it. And Milan became embroiled in a corruption scandal at the start of the 21st century, while Inter, on the other hand, boast of their clean disciplinary record, having never been docked points or condemned to administrative relegation to the second tier. That said, this hasn’t prevented the club’s reputation from being blemished by the odd shady affair here and there.
In the next qualifying round, India beat Hong Kong (4-0), Afghanistan (2-1), and Cambodia (2-0) to top their group and qualify. Sahal Abdul Samad and Sunil Chhetri had been among those who starred as India put in their most sustained run of quality performances together. Coach Igor Stimac had put out attacking lineups in all three matches as India played some of the best football the national team has seen for quite a while.
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