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The Milan derby is one of world football’s most prestigious fixtures. Played between two of Italy’s most successful clubs and held on the iconic stage that San Siro provides, it has captivated fans from across the globe for decades.
Images like Mark Hatley’s towering header back in 1984, or Marco Materazzi leaning on Manuel Rui Costa in 2005 as flares rained down onto the pitch have become etched in our collective memories, touchstones in a story that has no end.
The two clubs have spent all this season writing the most recent chapter in the ceaseless tale of this rivalry, going head-to-head for a Serie A title that seemingly nobody wanted to win.
Napoli and Juventus both squandered their chances to lift Lo Scudetto as the campaign progressed, so as the final weekend of action approaches it is only the Milan duo who remain in contention.
Stefano Pioli’s Rossoneri begin round 38 with a two-point lead over Inter and have the advantage in the head-to-head tiebreaker, meaning they would need to lose to Sassuolo on Sunday in order for their crosstown rivals to have a chance.
That means Milan are undoubtedly in a fantastic position to end their 11-year wait for a league title, a tumultuous period that has seen them have three different owners and nine managerial changes.
But this season things have clicked for Pioli and his players, the team currently on a 15-match unbeaten run, and notably recording nine wins and two draws in their last 11 away matches.
That should bode well for their visit to the Mapei Stadium this weekend, but Sassuolo have certainly been something of a bogey team for them over the years. They have won each of their last two meetings with Milan, and Coach Alessio Dionisi has warned they will pose a threat again this time around.
“Milan are a better team and are having an unbeaten streak,” the Neroverdi boss told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “They deserve to be table leaders and it’s normal that many take their victory for granted, but we are Sassuolo, not a sparring partner.
“The result is not decided yet. We have nothing to lose and we have the qualities to create problems for Milan.”
That will be exactly what Simone Inzaghi wanted to hear, and the Inter boss knows enough about collapses on the final day to have his team ready to take advantage of any slip up by Milan.
Indeed, this season’s title race is the most thrilling we’ve had since 2002, when it was Inter who went into the final day one point ahead of Juve, with AS Roma a further point behind. On the final day that year, the Bianconeri jumped out to an early 2-0 lead over Udinese, while the Giallorossi beat Torino 1-0.
But the real drama came in Rome where Inter took the lead against Lazio, and both sets of fans cheered because the Laziale knew that losing would guarantee their bitter rivals Roma could not win the Scudetto.
Karel Poborsky equalised, then Luigi Di Biagio restored Inter’s lead only for Poborsky to score again thanks to an unforgettable Vrarislav Gresko mistake. Going into the break at 2-2, Lazio discovered that Juve were winning and came out firing in the second half with their fans now behind them.
Diego Simeone gave them the lead with a header, with a final goal from Simone Inzaghi himself sealing Inter’s fate. Ronaldo slumped on the bench with tears streaming down his face, and May 5th became synonymous in Italy with this most remarkable of failures by the Nerazzurri.
As we await for the drama to unfold at the end of this chapter of Derby della Madonnina history, all Inter can do is hope that May 22nd becomes similarly painful for Milan.