No time for Euro hangover as Milan derby looms

Posted by Sumeet Paul

Having claimed the scalp of Barcelona in mid-week, attention now switches to another battle at San Siro when Milan face bitter city rivals Inter in the Derby della Madonnina on Sunday night.

With the euphoria of Wednesday's result still fresh in the mind of all concerned with the Rossoneri, it is now vital that Milan don't suffer from a European hangover, similar to the one they experienced last season.

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Following their Champions League quarterfinal clashes with Barcelona last year, Milan were held by Catania and fell to defeat against Fiorentina. To further compound the misery, I had the misfortune of choosing to travel to Milan that weekend to watch Massimiliano Allegri's title push falter.

After such a heroic effort to defeat the Spaniards, the Rossoneri will naturally feel the effects on Sunday night. To sustain such an intense and tireless performance over the course of an entire game does eventually take its toll, causing tired minds as well as tired legs.

However, while both Allegri and the players were quick to congratulate one another after defeating the Catalans, they had the Derby very much in mind. It was a tremendous effort and result, but one of the primary objectives this season remains to finish in the top three.

Milan will be boosted by the return of Mario Balotelli, who is set to face his former club for the first time since his return to Italy. It will be another test of his growing maturity, as not only will he receive a hostile welcome from the Inter fans, this being their 'home game', but the Nerazzurri defence are likely to try and provoke him.

There was a real sense of inevitability surrounding his goal-scoring debut, and there is a similar feeling ahead of the Derby. The hope will be that he can continue to control his temperament, and keep on delivering the goals to keep Milan in third place.

As has been the case in many of Milan's biggest wins this season, another influential performance will be required of Riccardo Montolivo. It appears 'Monty' relishes the big stage, having been instrumental in the win over Juventus back in October and he was equally as commanding against Barca.

With the Sulley Muntari-Massimo Ambrosini combination providing the protection either side of him, should the trio all be passed fit, they will need to dominate that area thus allowing Balotelli and company to attack a weakened Inter backline.

Tactics will again come to the fore from Allegri, as they prepare for an Inter side without usual tormentor-in-chief, Diego Milito. His absence will mean the responsibility will fall on Antonio Cassano and Rodrigo Palacio, so whether it's Ignazio Abate or Mattia De Sciglio selected at right back, they will need to find a way to keep 'Fantantonio' quiet.

The Milan derby remains one of the greatest spectacles in football, and a win on Sunday night would not only cap a memorable week for Milan, it would also maintain the momentum in the race to seal third place.

What will be the key to beating Inter on Sunday? Will Balotelli be the hero or villain?

For all the latest Milan and Serie A news, you can follow me on Twitter @italiafooty

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