While countless column inches are always dedicated to AC Milan and Inter in the build-up to the derby between them, this week has seen the Derby della Madonnina focus firmly on the strike forces of the two sides. Mauro Icardi has become part of the furniture in the Nerazzurri camp, however, the addition of Gonzalo Higuain at Milan this summer has sent the Italian press into overdrive, and with good reason too.
The 2011/12 campaign was the last time supporters could look back to such two deadly strikers in this fixture, when Zlatan Ibrahimovic pulled on the red and black shirt, lining up versus opposition forward Diego Milito.
Such a factor was picked up on by former Rossoneri striker Andriy Shevchenko, the all-time top goal scorer in the fixture. “It’ll be a beautiful contest, an Argentinian derby between the two,” the Ukraine national team Coach told Sky Italia recently. “I don’t want to compare him to myself, but I think Higuain now has an important role that goes beyond the pitch. Milan have a lot of players without much experience, and now they’re training alongside someone who played at Real Madrid, Juventus, and Napoli.
“He’s a serious lad who can give a lot to the group and help the other players in the squad grow,” Shevchenko continued. “As for Icardi, he’s improved a lot and he’s a fully-formed player, a leader of this Inter. He showed that in the two recent Champions League matches: when the team was struggling he managed to find the goals to win the games.”
The record of this pair speaks for itself, Icardi with no less than 112 goals in 190 competitive fixtures for the Nerazzurri, while Higuain fired in 55 times in 105 appearances for Juventus as well as 92 in 147 for Napoli. This term is no different, with Icardi just one behind Higuain after scoring five in seven starts in all competitions, the Milan striker with six in seven.
This pair are reaching peak form just at the right time, leaving supporters impatient to see exactly what they can achieve for their respective sides on Sunday evening. Both Icardi and Higuain scored a brace in the last fixture before the International Break, the latter taking just four shots to do so.
— Adam Digby (@Adz77) October 8, 2018
“We’re not playing tennis, it’s football,” Higuain professed in Thursday morning’s edition of La Gazzetta dello Sport. “It’s 11 vs 11, not striker against striker. Teams win, not players, but he’s been doing well for several years, he’s scored a lot of goals and it’s up to him to continue like this. I wish him well. He’s got that ability in the air and his timing in the penalty box, he’s an assassin.”
The 30-year-old is correct in his assertion that they are indeed playing football, however, he is too modest in playing down the importance of both himself and his opposite number. Media hype is all-too-often unfounded, but this fixture could genuinely be decided by this pair, just as they did in the previous round of Serie A fixtures.
The world is watching and waiting with their eyes fixated on the number nines, both of whom have all the necessary tools to deliver what is expected of them.