The Italian heavyweights meet at the San Siro on Saturday, with the Nerazzurri having ‘home advantage’.
In years gone by, a clash between the city rivals at this stage of the season would typically have been billed as a straight shootout for the Serie A title.
But, that’s not the case this term – and nor has it been in previous seasons either.
Although both clubs still maintain feint Champions League qualification hopes, realistically, the Milanese pair are fighting it out for the final Europa League qualifying berth – sixth place.
Vincenzo Montella’s Rossoneri side currently occupy that position in the table and are two points ahead of Inter in seventh, with seven games left to contest.
It’s definitely all to play for and both sides will feel the Derby is a winnable fixture considering they have more tough tests to come from those in and around them in the table.
After Saturday, the Nerazzurri face Fiorentina and Napoli before a trip to fourth-placed Lazio for their penultimate game of the season. Meanwhile, AC Milan still have to play second-placed AS Roma and Atalanta – who currently lie in fifth position.
Inter’s form has been particularly woeful leading into this fixture – Stefano Piloi’s men lost last time out to lowly Crotone and have only picked up one point from their past three league fixtures. More on that later.
However, things are a bit more rosy for Montella and Milan.
Under “The Little Aeroplane”, he has transformed expectations in his debut campaign and showed tremendous faith in young stars like goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, full-back Davide Calabria and home-grown prodigy Manuel Locatelli.
And with the news that famed long-term owner Silvio Berlusconi has now cashed in on the club, selling to Chinese investors, Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux, Milan are thought to have financial clout to challenge European football’s elite again.
This also gives them extra leverage to convince their young stars to stay.
Activity and discussion off the pitch will always create headlines at Milan, but whatever decisions the club’s hierarchy decide to take, they will be pleased with how the club are poised to tackle the business end of the season.
The Red and Blacks have had to deal with some cruel injuries to Giacomo Bonaventura and Suso this term, but the added additions of Barcelona’s La Masia product Gerard Deulofeu – a loan signing from Everton – and the acquisition of Watford’s M’Baye Niang on similar terms – was really inspired.
Deulofeu, so often a figure of frustration at Goodison Park, has been somewhat of a revelation in Italy – creating chances and assisting goals for fun. His recall to the Spanish national side is proof of his top form and he could well spark interest from Barcelona club director Robert Fernandez in the near future.
Those two will be key players this weekend.
Milan undoubtedly head into the clash as favourites – simply put, they are a side playing with more confidence.
Montella likes his players to counter attack and then defend, with high pressing, to protect a lead. On the other hand, the Meazza will be desperate to cut out the lapses in concentration that have cost them dear in recent weeks.
The Crotone defeat typified this and Inter seem to be experiencing some form of April burnout. Indeed, their 7-1 thumping of Atalanta on March 12 feels like a lifetime ago.
It should be said, though, to Inter’s credit, they’ve actually managed to turn around a season that was in turmoil following Frank De Boer’s early sacking.
Pioli has been under big pressure to deliver results immediately and after a great start, the wheels have come off.
Momentum isn’t on Inter’s side now and in an interview with Corriere della Sera, the 51-year-old Pioli admitted just as much.
He revealed that his players were not coping with the expectation from above that they had to achieve Champions League qualification this term.
Ultimately, the fate of both sides will not be totally determined in the forthcoming Derby – but it will play a part.
A win for AC will give them a firm grip on sixth and help their pursuit of Europa League football (minimum) next term, but victory for Inter obviously keeps the race wide open.
This all-Milan meeting may not carry the clout of yesteryear but it’s still a match that captures the imagination, whatever’s left on the table to play for.