Milan (AFP) – AC Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso believes Wednesday’s ‘Derby della Madonnina’ against bitter city rivals Inter is beginning to recapture its past glory with Champions League qualification potentially at stake.
“After so many years the derby is back to being something significant, it will be a great game,” said Gattuso of the Serie A fixture that was postponed last month after Fiorentina captain Davide Astori’s death.
The two clubs have won 10 Champions League titles between them — seven for AC Milan and three for Inter — but it is five years since either qualified for Europe’s premier club competition and seven since they were both involved.
But with Inter currently fourth, in the final qualifying place, and Milan eight points back in sixth, there is renewed hope that one at least might make it through this season.
“We’re experiencing a different atmosphere now. The fans have already done their share by breaking the record for sales, now we have to fire them up with a good start,” said Gattuso of Wednesday’s game at the 80,000 capacity San Siro stadium.
“We need to improve our mentality and desire, fight with a knife between our teeth.”
Milan were on a 10-match unbeaten run until losing 3-1 to champions Juventus in Turin at the weekend.
In Inter’s last three games they’ve held title-chasing Napoli to a goalless draw and claimed back-to-back wins over Sampdoria and Verona, scoring eight goals in the process.
Inter captain Mauro Icardi — who scored a hat-trick when Inter won the last Serie A derby meeting 3-2 in October — has hit top form again following an injury, scoring six goals in his past two games.
“Inter have changed in the last three weeks, scoring 10 goals and conceding none (over their last four matches). They’re a healthy team, as are Milan. It’s an important derby,” continued Gattuso on Tuesday.
“It’s a derby, a clash in which the team lower in the table often wins.”
Gattuso meanwhile brushed aside talk of his new contract with reports he is poised to pen a deal worth two million euros a year ($2.4 million) after Wednesday’s game.
“The priority is AC Milan, not the contract of Rino Gattuso. I don’t like to waste time talking when there is a job to do.
“I feel great responsibility: I am the boss, coach, president, I think only of Milan.”
Inter coach Luciano Spalletti said victory would go some way towards ruling their neighbours out of Champions League contention.
“Can we knock them out of the Champions League race? They would remain in a good position in the table, and given the mentality of their coach it wouldn’t change anything,” he said.
“But the points would definitely start to be different.”
An Inter victory would leave Milan 11 points behind with just eight matches left.