Who made it into our greatest-ever combined AC Milan and Inter XI?

Sport360 staff 14/04/2017
Star quartet: Zanetti, Pirlo, Kaka and Ronaldo.

AC Milan and Inter Milan may not be dominating Italian football right now, but there's no doubt that many of the world's best players have graced the San Siro in years gone by.

With the two teams getting ready to face one another in this weekend's Milan Derby, we're taken a trip down memory lane and built a combined AC-Inter eleven.

And, even if you don't agree with all of the top talent we have included, this side would certainly be a force to be reckoned with.

In all due respect to the present-day teams, we expect the Rossoneri and Meazza would happily trade some of their current stars for these legends from yesteryear.

Let us know what your dream AC Milan and Inter combined XI looks like!

Share with us your thoughts by commenting below, using #360fans on Twitter or getting in touch via Facebook.

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COMMENT: Why AC Milan are favourites in derby

Omar Karmani 14/04/2017
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Arch rivals: AC and Inter.

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.

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COMMENT: Juve ready for Barca after Napoli tactical runout

Adam Digby 10/04/2017
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Higuain is central to Juventus' plans.

As kick off approached, everyone was focussed on the man in the Juventus No9 shirt.

In choosing to leave Napoli for the Bianconeri last summer, Gonzalo Higuain had ensured that he was now a hate figure for supporters who once idolised him.

Higuain’s betrayal shattered the Scudetto dreams of the Stadio San Paolo faithful, and last week saw them given two opportunities to voice their displeasure. They did not disappoint. Thousands of blue whistles were distributed by the club’s Ultras as the first encounter approached, and the cacophony of noise when the Argentinian stepped out to warm up was simply deafening.

Yet after 180 minutes of action, Juventus had secured a 1-1 draw in the league and, despite losing the Coppa Italia semi-final second leg 3-2, ensured their progress to the final 5-4 on aggregate.

Higuain scored twice in that latter encounter because that’s just what he does, his record against his former club now standing at four goals in four games, and after trying not to celebrate any of them, he finally couldn’t help himself.

However, while Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis and Higuain’s brother Nicola ensured the vitriol did not come to an end, the two matches ultimately showcased something far more significant than that duo’s social media spat.

Before the Coppa clash last Wednesday night, Juve boss Max Allegri declared that, “Napoli are a team that play in a similar way to Barcelona,” and looking back across the two matches, it is impossible to escape the feeling the coach used the clashes as a tune-up for Tuesday’s quarter-final.

Last four meetings

  • 2014/15: UCL final - Juventus 1-3 Barcelona
  • 2002/03: UCL Group - Barcelona 1-2 Juventus
  • 2002/03: UCL Group - Juventus 1-1 Barcelona
  • 1990/91: CWC - Juventus 1-0 Barcelona

“On Sunday we weren’t forced to win, so we could approach it a different way,” he explained at a midweek press conference, and while his side were deployed in a usual 4-2-3-1 formation, they played with a different game-plan.

Fielding Mario Mandzukic and Mario Lemina on the flanks, that framework often shifted to a 4-5-1 when possession was lost, Miralem Pjanic also dropping back to ensure the Bianconeri were never outnumbered in midfield. However, Paris Saint-Germain’s collapse at Camp Nou showed the dangers of sitting back and hoping to see out the clock against Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, the “MSN” frontline blitzing the Ligue 1 outfit to overturn a 4-0 first leg defeat.

Therefore it was encouraging to see Juventus at times pressing their opponents in their own half, particularly after taking the lead.

A key point to note was that on goal kicks, deep free-kicks or throw-ins, the Bianconeri stayed in the Napoli half, with clear instructions not to let their opponents begin building play comfortably from the back.

Napoli boast Serie A’s most prolific attack, yet Dries Mertens was held scoreless for the first time in five games. Claudio Marchisio and Sami Khedira marshalled the central area well, while the team around them diligently, with Juve’s efforts in denying service to their opponents front three particularly impressive.

There is little doubt that the Bianconeri are capable of limiting such a team, and the similarities in the styles of Barcelona and Napoli should not be easily dismissed.

The latter lead Serie A in terms of possession with 58.8 per cent, but while that figure trails the Catalan side’s mark of 62.2 per cent, the Italian club still average 667.5 passes per game. That tally is behind only Bayern’s 719.8 among Europe’s top five leagues, with the Blaugrana averaging 618.7.

That Juventus stepped on the gas in the home leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final was telling – the 3-1 win allowing them to play the return clash with confidence and even lose while still progressing.

Allegri has clearly laid down his blueprint for beating Barcelona, all that remains now is to see if his players can execute it.

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