Spalletti battling for survival as Inter try to save face against Milan

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“The derby is always the derby, it makes you feel strong emotions even if I was even more motivated for games against Juventus. All of the wins against Milan were good, even the 4-0 which I spent on the bench. The Rossoneri have toughened up because Gattuso snarls on the bench and makes it look like they’re playing with 12. Piątek fights for every ball but he scores as part of the team thanks to everyone. Our guys will know what to do.” Those were the words of former Nerazzurri defender Marco Materazzi, who spoke to Inter TV about what it meant for him to feature in the Derby Milano during his playing career.

Indeed, tonight’s edition of the Derby della Madonnina will be a particularly significant one. Not only are both sides fighting to secure a place in the UEFA Champions League group stage ahead of next season, but there are reports that Luciano Spalletti may face the sack should the Diavolo get the better of their city rivals. There have been suggestions that former Beneamata stalwart Esteban Cambiasso will be brought in to galvanise the squad as they battle to remain in the top four.

Spalletti has tried his best to deflect speculation about his own future by focusing on how few players he had available against Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday, but the fact remains: Inter’s performance was unacceptable and not befitting a club of such immense stature. The fans are restless and, for this reason, it may be a welcome relief for the Nerazzurri that they are the nominal away side this evening. It is abundantly clear that the pressures that come with playing in front of a packed and expectant San Siro crowd are weighing heavily on some.

While there is an argument to say that form is irrelevant ahead of the derby, it is difficult to make a case for Inter when you consider how strong the Rossoneri have been since the turn of the year. The arrivals of Krzysztof Piątek and Lucas Paquetá have undoubtedly given them a huge boost, both in terms of technical quality and psychological resilience. It remains to be seen how they will handle the pressure of a Derby Milano, but they have already shown they have what it takes to perform at a high level during their recent Coppa Italia quarter-final victory over Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli.

Regardless of who is in Inter’s starting line-up, they simply have to show a reaction. Performances and results have been pitiful in 2019 thus far, and they owe their millions of fans across the world a display they can be proud of. The quality of football on show has depreciated to such a point that watching the Nerazzurri has become a tense and at times painful experience. Now the players must show they have the stomach for the fight by honouring the history and tradition of the jersey they are representing.

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