The 161st league meeting between the two Milanese giants will be Filippo Inzaghi’s first as Rossoneri coach, while Roberto Mancini has returned to the Biscione bench for a second spell after the sacking of Walter Mazzarri.
Mancini was held to a goalless draw in his inaugural derby match in 2004, and also saw his side be beaten by their city rivals in the infamous Champions League quarterfinal later that season.
The second leg of that 2005 European tie was abandoned after Milan goalkeeper Dida was struck on the shoulder by a lit flare thrown from the Curva Nord, though Mancini would go on to get the better of Carlo Ancelotti’s Diavolo winning four out of their next six meetings in Serie A.
Current coach Inzaghi had missed “Mancio’s” first derby match having been hampered by a succession of ankle injuries, but the former forward was decisive in his final one opening the scoring with a near post header in a 2-1 win for Milan in May 2008.
Mancini was unceremoniously sacked in favour of Jose Mourinho following a 20-minute meeting with then president Massimo Moratti later that month, despite winning three successive Scudetti, two Coppa Italia and two Supercoppa Italiana titles from 2004 to 2008.
Six years after leaving the former Manchester City and Galatasaray tactician has now been brought back to the San Siro by new owner Erick Thohir with the Nerazzurri ninth in the league table and needing a number of problems resolved.
His most immediate issue will be what formation to use with reports coming out of Inter’s Appiano Gentile training ground that they will abandon Mazzarri’s preferred formation of 3-5-2 in favour of a 4-3-1-2.
Hugo Campagnaro, Jonathan and Hernanes are all injury doubts, Gary Medel is suspended and Danilo D’Ambrosio is still unavailable through a knee ligament injury.
Milan go into Sunday’s match one point ahead of Inter in the Serie A standings, but are under pressure to improve after failing to win in their last four league outings.
Vice-president Adriano Galliani believes that the enthusiasm generated from Mancini’s reappointment has made the Milanese derby more difficult for the Rossoneri, while Thursday’s edition of Il Corriere della Sera has described the match for Inzaghi as “the derby of fear.”
Ignazio Abate and Nigel De Jong are set to undergo late fitness tests and Daniele Bonera is suspended after being sent off for the eighth time in his top-flight career in the 2-2 draw at Sampdoria.
Expected Starting XIs
AC Milan – Diego Lopez; Rami, Alex, Mexes, De Sciglio; Bonaventura, Essien, Muntari; Honda, Menez, El Shaarawy.
Inter – Handanovic; Nagatomo, Ranocchia, Juan Jesus, Dodo; Guarin, Kuzmanovic, M’Vila; Kovacic; Palacio, Icardi.