Milan Derby looms minus usual appeal

Posted by Sumeet Paul

Claudio Villa/Getty ImagesFormer AC Milan player Bojan Krkic, right, battles Inter's Javier Zanetti for the ball in last February's derby.

The Derby della Madonnina remains one of the most prestigious and fascinating derbies in European football, with a worldwide audience expected to tune in to watch the latest encounter between city rivals Milan and Inter. However, off-the-pitch events in recent days have questioned the appeal of Sunday's clash.

Following the Disciplinary Commission's decision to close the Curva Nord, Javier Zanetti conceded in a short interview with RAI that the derby had lost an element of its appeal.

In response, Milan's Curva Sud were reportedly set to meet with their counterparts on Wednesday to discuss how to protest the ban, diminishing in part the animosity between the two temporarily as the on-going battle against the authorities continues.

-Horncastle: Derby still has its spark
-Wilson: Zanetti Inter's key man

Nevertheless, both teams will be determined to secure all three points on Sunday night, as they will be vital to their respective objectives for the season.

While the decision to close the stadium to some of the Nerazzurri's most ardent support will now potentially be reversed, it should only add to the spectacle between old rivals.

Walter Mazzarri has rejuvenated the club since his arrival from Napoli this past summer, as they remain in the hunt for breaking into the top three and will undoubtedly be desperate to heap further misery on the Rossoneri.

In contrast, Milan are looking to merely keep their season alive as they hope to emerge as a threat for a European spot in the New Year. While that looks a more impossible feat with each passing week, the belief is still there for the players.

As the old adage goes, the form book goes out of the window for derby meetings, and the hope is that that will be the case come Sunday night at San Siro.

While there is little point in building this up as a potential "season-changer" given Milan's inconsistency, the significance of the game itself will be more than enough motivation for Massimiliano Allegri and the players to provide some much-needed positivity for the supporters.

A criticism of modern football is that with so many players arriving from outside of the club, the significance and 'fan' aspect of the derby is perhaps not as strong. However, there is a wealth of experience in this side and the likes of Kaka will be key in making the difference in a tense and highly charged game.

With the winter break and the January transfer window ahead, the latter promises to see more movement in addition to Keisuke Honda's arrival, but it is important that the first half of the season is rounded off in the ideal way.

So while Zanetti may have a point regarding the game's appeal in terms of the possible atmosphere and current plight of usual Scudetto contenders, there is no doubting its importance -- a derby win is always a significant boost both on and off the pitch for the respective victor.

What will be key to Milan defeating their city rivals?

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

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