In his regular Wednesday column Inter fanatic Sam Olsen will be delving deep into the stories that matter to Inter’s fans looking to keep the spirit of discussion and dispute alive and well on the pages of Sempreinter.com. New Zealander Sam has published several books on military history as well as contributing to a number of sport and news related websites. His love for Inter began in 1997 watching Ronaldo waltz through confused defences in the famous blue and black, and he has enjoyed the roller coaster ride ever since. His favourite moment was watching the team lift the Coppa Italia in 04-05 with Mancini, breaking the long domestic trophy drought, while his favourite player is Javier Zanetti, the great one, who encompasses everything good and right about the club.
You can almost feel the time slipping by, the moments disappearing in the countdown to the only thing that matters this week. You feel distracted, unable to focus on work, and too much time is spent loitering around the proverbial, or literal depending on your workplace, water cooler, hoping that someone might arrive for a glass of water and stay for some serious football talk. With every word spoken another of those annoying moments that stand between you and kick off are removed until everything disappears except for what is happening inside the San Siro. The league table, other results, the season, none of it factors into consideration during derby time. The only thing is victory on the pitch and leaving the rag tag supporters of that other Milan team; you know the one run by that guy who works at the old people’s home, tearing their hair out. Winning the derby can take away much of the pain of an unsatisfying season. It can mean the difference between a manager who has just got a card saying good luck in the future, and one who can look forward to at least a couple of weeks of peace. It is the epitomy of what it is to play for or manage Inter, the match where the supporters scream and sing the loudest, and the pretenders are found out. Where heroes are made and legends forged like Adriano’s last minute winner in 2005, Sneijder’s introduction to Internazionale with a cracking 0-4 win in 2009 and Palacio’s magical backheel which secured a hard fought 1-0 win in the last storied match.
For Walter Mazzarri, a man who has plainly felt the effects of a season at the helm of one of the world’s biggest clubs, it is a match that could define his career at the club. We all read on the pages of Sempreinter.com, Walter Mazzarri, face wearied by the stresses and pressures of a job of this magnitude, stating that he “can’t wait for to finish this year which for me has been trying, since I’ve spent so much energy.” He has felt the wrath of the fans, the scrutiny that comes with his every move and the incredible demands on the man chosen to lead Inter, every day since he joined. His future has been the source of much conjecture for the last few months as it seemingly hung by the barest of threads, with it only recently being all but confirmed that he will be leading the team out next season. He also knows that in football this confirmation can evaporate in a second, just look at David Moyes’ at Man United, another who underestimated the demands of a big club and paid the price.
The importance of this derby, not just to Mazzarri but to the club as a whole, cannot be understated. From a purely league position perspective a victory can all but secure a European spot for next year, the bare minimum requirement for this season. A loss will throw Inter back into the pit of an all or nothing fight for the coveted position; something that no-one at the club wants to see, especially with the somewhat delicate mental condition of some of the players this year.
A win will also serve to silence many of the doubters who are unsure or dead against Mazzarri being the man to lead the team into next season (including myself). A loss will only heighten calls that he is the wrong man for the job and perhaps throw a little more doubt into the mind of Thorir, a mind which seemingly has already been swayed by public opinion if the Guarin – Vucinic swap deal collapse is anything to go by. A loss, particularly a heavy loss, may turn the murmurs of discontent into a tidal wave that sweeps Mazzarri along with it and straight out the door.
Then there are the all important bragging rights. Like Inter, Milan are going through what can only be described as a bad patch which sees them languish in 10th with 51 points and a pathetic goal difference of 7. Despite what is going on in the rest of the league it is always nice to be able to say ‘at least we beat Milan’ to give yourself a lift, particularly when looking at how far ahead the team that bought referees now is.
Obviously just beating Milan will be cause enough for the bubbles to flow but there is also the added bonus of being able to watch Milan self destruct as they search for answers. What better way to celebrate than watching them implode; and if we are really lucky we may even get to see them sack another coach and get rid of a few more of their best players. If things go really well, they may even be desperate enough to offer Muntari to a new long term deal. What more could you ask for!
My big concern this weekend however, is that the match will prove too much for the cautious one. That he will simply try to kill the game off and play for a draw, as he did against Napoli, despite the opportunity to put a few more dents in Mr. Benetiz’s rotund suit of armour, something that no true Interista would fail to take up. I can admit to both cringing and grinding my teeth in frustration watching Kuzmanovic appearing at the side of the pitch to replace Icardi as Mazzarri blinked before even being looked at. Hopefully in the derby he shows a little more steel, a little more daring and manages to flummox his inexperienced counterpart with a few of the tricks he has stashed away for such occasions. After all it is the Derby.
Derby Prediction: Inter to win 1-3. With goals from Hernanes, Palacio and Zanetti, who came on as a 75th minute sub to seal the three points for his beloved club with a rare goal!