Balotelli set for 2nd Milan debut in derby at old club Inter
Sep. 10, 2015
MILAN (AP) — Mario Balotelli is expected to make his second AC Milan debut on Sunday, adding extra spice to what is already set to be a heated derby match against Inter Milan.
Elsewhere, Juventus is still looking for its first points after its worst start to a Serie A season and it welcomes surprise frontrunner Chievo Verona on Saturday.
Balotelli returned to his boyhood club on loan last month, just a year after joining Liverpool from Milan for 16 million pounds (then $26.5 million).
The 25-year-old appeared to realize it was his last chance to redeem himself, especially following a poor season in which he scored just one goal in 16 Premier League appearances and lost his spot in the Italy squad.
However, it didn't take long for Balotelli to make headlines off the pitch as he had his driving license suspended for speeding last week. Milan, which has imposed a code of ethics on the forward, decided not to fine him.
Balotelli will be eager to prove his doubters wrong and he can take a significant step toward that by scoring in the derby against Inter — the team at which he started his Serie A career, before moving to Manchester City in 2010.
"He is very important for us. Mario is a great player who has come to give us an important hand," said Milan forward Luiz Adriano, who recently signed from Shakhtar Donetsk. "The team needs everyone and he will help us a lot."
Milan beat Empoli 2-1 after losing its first game at Fiorentina, while Inter got off to a flying start and won its opening two matches — albeit against Atalanta and Carpi.
It sits third, behind Chievo and Torino, which visits Hellas Verona on Sunday. Sassuolo and Palermo are the other two teams to have won their opening matches and they host Atalanta and Carpi respectively.
Here are some things to know about the third round of Serie A:
It's top against bottom this weekend as Juventus welcomes Chievo Verona, although unusually it's not the four-time defending champion which is leading the way.
Juventus has lost its opening two Serie A matches for the first time and most put that down to the number of new players needing to settle in after a summer of change in Turin.
"There are two different discussions," said Hernanes, who joined from Inter in the summer. "If we're talking about the level we play at, then it could take some time to know each other and do things by memory.
"However, in terms of the results, there are no excuses and we have to start picking up three points."
Chievo has had a stunning start to the season and won 4-0 against Lazio — seen as a dark horse for the title — last round.
FRIENDS TO FOES
Mario Balotelli is not the only famous Inter old boy at AC Milan.
New coach Sinisa Mihajlovic, who once said he could never coach Milan, retired as a footballer at Inter after two seasons with the Nerazzurri, and went on to start his managerial career at the club — as assistant to current boss, and old friend, Roberto Mancini.
Mihajlovic already has two derby wins as Milan coach, after steering the team to two 1-0 victories in pre-season friendly tournaments.
However, he has started the season poorly and will be looking to steer Milan to its first derby win at Inter in more than five years in order to inspire some much-needed confidence in his players.
DERBY DELLA MADONNINA
The match between the two Milan teams is known in Italy as the Derby della Madonnina. The derby derives its name from the statue of the Virgin Mary on top of Milan's Duomo, known as the Madonnina. Whichever team wins is said to have been favored by the Madonnina.
It is considered one of the major derbies in the world. But unlike in other major derby matches, it is rare to see trouble between the two sets of fans.
That was not always the case but a non-aggression pact made in 1983 — following the death of an Inter fan — still holds firm today.
The fans pour their energy instead into creative pre-match displays, which are eagerly anticipated.