x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Zanetti ready for a backlash from AC

The Inter Milan captain Javier Zanetti warns his teammates they are up against a rapidly-improving AC Milan outfit today.

The Ukrainian forward Andriy Shevchenko, centre, should start for AC today in the Milan derby.
The Ukrainian forward Andriy Shevchenko, centre, should start for AC today in the Milan derby.

The Inter Milan captain Javier Zanetti has warned his teammates they are up against a rapidly-improving AC Milan outfit ahead of their derby match at the San Siro today. Inter have held the bragging rights over their co-tenants in recent times having won the past three Scudetto titles. And while life under new boss Jose Mourinho is only in its early stages, the signs are good for the Nerazzurri to again push for honours as they lead the table after four games.

Milan, by contrast, have struggled in the recent past. They only finished fifth last season and the coach Carlo Ancelotti came under fire after the team lost their opening two matches of the season. The gloom around the club has lifted somewhat in the past week after their 3-1 Uefa Cup win over FC Zurich was followed by back-to-back triumphs in the league. The most notable of those was a 4-1 victory over the previously unbeaten Lazio at the San Siro last weekend and Zanetti - a veteran of 600 games with Inter - knows better than to underestimate their closest rivals.

"We respect Milan," Zanetti said. "They have grown and it will be a very combative game as all the derby games are. "We hope that we can do what we are able to do which is to win." Ancelotti will be forced to alter his first-choice striker partnership. Marco Borriello, who scored the opener in Wednesday's 2-1 win at Reggina, sustained a muscular injury. Andriy Shevchenko, who never lived up to his reputation at Chelsea where he played for Mourinho after a lucrative move from Milan, returned to the Rossoneri in the summer.

Shevchenko, who has yet to score for his new side this season, is set to replace Borriello and partner Alexandre Pato up front with Kaka in support. Elsewhere, Roma host Atalanta at the Stadio Olimpico with coach Luciano Spalletti still crying foul over the decision which cost his side a point in midweek. A controversial offside decision cost Roma an equaliser midway through the second half of their Serie A game at Genoa.

The Giallorossi then had captain Daniele De Rossi sent off and ended up losing 3-1 to drop to 16th in the standings. Video replays suggested Roma defender Christian Panucci's goal should have been allowed though, and Spalletti admits it is a bitter pill to swallow. "This defeat burns," said Spalletti. "First of all, we didn't deserve it and, secondly, we have been penalised. I will accept defeat but only when it's deserved and not like this. This is a shocking episode and a serious one. It is even one that a linesman of amateur level would have easily picked up.

"Had that goal counted, perhaps we would have gone on to win that game." * With agencies