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Inter vs. Milan, preview: It's the first Derby della Madonnina of the season

Inter have the points and the placement, but after last week's showing, is it Milan that have the edge?

Claudio Villa

The Derby della Madonnina, played out between Inter and Milan, has to be one of the closest matched derbies in football. Assuming Wikipedia is right (and this is one of the rare occasions that it seems easiest just to trust the online encyclopedia), Inter have won 75 of the 210 meetings in all competitions, Milan 73. Even the goals scored is closely matched, with Milan at 285, Inter at 289.

Over the past couple seasons, the nerazzurri have the edge, having won three of the last four, and with the most recent match, in February 2013, ending in a 1-1 draw. Looking at the table, you'd have no reason to think this match won't swing in Inter's favor: they're nine points above the rossoneri, have scored eleven more goals, and only lost once at home.

Yet it's Milan that may actually have momentum in their favor. Last time out, Inter lost 4-2 at Napoli, while the rossoneri came back to draw 2-2 with second-placed Roma. That means it's Milan that are unbeaten in their past five matches, although both sides have recorded just one win in that time, and both to a relegation candidate. More importantly, against Roma Milan looked motivated. Sure, they weren't perfect in their passes nor full of creative ideas, but they had a spark that's been lacking for much of the season.

So with both sides failing to live up to their storied histories, can we actually expect a good match out of the final tie before Italy take their winter break? Well, "good" might not be the right descriptor, but "lively" just might be. Neither squad is exactly known for their defensive capabilities -- the return of Hugo Campagnaro hasn't fixed Inter's back line, while Milan tend to go to pieces when faced with a dead ball situation -- which could make for some rather comical goals. And of course, there's always the potential for penalties and red cards, particularly with Mario Balotelli on the pitch.

Projected lineups

Inter MilanSamir Handanovič; Hugo Campagnaro, Andrea Ranocchia, Juan Jesus; Jonathan, Saphir Taider, Esteban Cambiasso, Mateo Kovačić, Yuto Nagatomo; Fredy Guarín; Rodrigo Palacio

AC Milan (4-3-1-2): Christian Abbiati; Mattia De Sciglio, Daniele Bonera, Cristián Zapata, Kévin Constant; Andrea Poli, Nigel De Jong, Sulley Muntari; Kakà; Mario Balotelli, Alessandro Matri

Inter injuries and suspensions

Cristian Chivu, Diego Milito, McDonald Mariga, Walter Samuel (injured); Ricky Álvarez (suspended)

Milan injuries and suspensions

Marco Amelia, Valter Birsa, Stephan El Shaarawy, Robinho, Matías Silvestre (injured); Ignazio Abate, Urby Emanuelson (in doubt); Riccardo Montolivo (suspended)

Match Date / Time

Sunday, December 22 at 8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET

Venue

Stadio San Siro, Milan

Watch

TV: Sky Sport 1 HD Italia, Sky 3D Italia, Sky Calcio 1, Sky Supercalcio HD (Italy); BeIN Sport, RAI Internazionale (USA)

Online: BeIN Sport Play