Inter must win derby – Ranieri
Inter coach Claudio Ranieri admits his side must beat neighbours Milan to thrust themselves into the Serie A scudetto picture.
The two Milanese giants face off at the San Siro tonight in one of the most eagerly anticipated clashes of the season.
Milan are currently joint-top of the table, alongside Juventus, with Inter eight points back in fifth.
The Nerazzurri have paid for a disastrous start to their campaign in which they won only two of their first nine matches.
However, five wins in a row have at least made Inter relevant again in the title picture.
Defeat, though, would almost certainly kill off their hopes – not that Ranieri is willing to acknowledge that just yet.
“The most important thing are the three points,” he told reporters yesterday.
“If we win we will put ourselves back on course to do something important and Milan will drop points. If we lose, we’ll go back to where we were beforehand, but there will still be time to fight back into it.”
While his former club Juventus could ultimately be the big winners today, Ranieri insisted that he needs his team to win a direct confrontation with Serie A title rivals following three previous defeats this season.
“Several times this season I’ve said we wanted to win a match that really counts. I said so against Napoli, Juventus and Udinese,” he observed.
“The derby is important. In October, we lost to Napoli and then we lost twice more to Juventus and Udinese.”
Ranieri will be able to call on playmaker Wesley Sneijder, striker Diego Forlan and defender Cristian Chivu, who are all back from injuries, while only midfielder Dejan Stankovic is missing.
It means the former Chelsea coach has more options than at any other time this season and will have to leave some players on the bench.
“I’m delighted about that, the problems come when you don’t have anyone to pick,” he said.
However, he is particularly wary of Milan’s ability to hurt teams on the counter-attack.
“We’ll fight for every ball, we have to stop Milan doing what they’re good at, principally counters, and that’s where we’ve also struggled in other matches.
“Another of their weapons are players running from deep like Boateng and Nocerino.”
But most of all, Ranieri says his team will be keeping a close eye on Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who currently tops the Serie A scoring charts.
“He’s a player who’s always made a difference, even at Barcelona,” said Ranieri.
“In Italy he’s always won the title, he’s vital. We’ll do our best to stop him and my defenders will, of course, be showing maximum attention around this player.”
Last season, champions Milan won both derbies and finished six points ahead of Inter in the league.
De Rossi 29;
HT: 1-0. Att: 9,000.
(Match suspended 65th minute due to waterlogged pitch)
Playing today – 15.00
Cesena vs Novara
Chievo vs Palermo
Fiorentina vs Lecce
Genoa vs Udinese
Juventus vs Cagliari
Lazio vs Atalanta - 12.30
Milan vs Inter - 20.45
Parma vs Siena
Napoli vs Bologna - 20.45
AlbinoLeffe vs Cittadella 1-1; Gubbio vs Grosseto 4-0; J. Stabia vs Empoli 3-1; Livorno vs Crotone 2-1; Modena vs Reggina 3-3; Padova vs Sampdoria 1-2; Torino vs Ascoli 2-1; Varese vs Bari 0-2; Vicenza vs Brescia 0-1.
Standings: Torino 45; Sassuolo 43; Verona 41; Pescara 39; Padova 38; Reggina 32; Varese, Juve Stabia 31; Sampdoria, Bari, Cittadella, Grosseto 29; Brescia 28; Vicenza 26; Livorno, Crotone 24; AlbinoLeffe 23; Empoli, Gubbio 22; Modena 21; Nocerina 16; Ascoli 15.