The build-up towards Saturday’s derby between Inter and AC Milan continues, and the papers this morning have highlighted the fact that there will be a fair few players who could get their first taste of the biggest game in Italian football.
This morning’s edition of La Gazzetta dello Sport (seen below) writes that Stefano Pioli will use Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Christian Pulisic and Tijjani Reijnders from the first minute against the Nerazzurri.
The others, at least initially, will enjoy a privileged view of the San Siro spectacle from the bench. The derby has a history of its own, filled with debutants who quickly took centre-stage from Ronaldinho to Kakà.
Then there are those who entered the hearts of the fans, like Olivier Giroud after his brace in the Scudetto season which ended up being a turning point.
Pulisic and Loftus-Cheek will know the Milan derby after becoming familiar with those of London. Against Crystal Palace – one of London’s many clubs – Pulisic scored five goals in seven games making them his favourite opponent.
Pulisic actually played seven Ruhr derbies too, that being the game between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 which is considered by many as being the fiercest rivalry in the country.
His first Italian derby will anticipate his 25th birthday by two days. “Winning and scoring would be the best gift,” Pulisic said as soon as he landed in the city.
He scored from the penalty spot in the USA’s 3-0 win over Uzbekistan and his second match with his national team will see him play against Oman in the early hours of Wednesday morning (European time).
His return to Italy will only happen on Wednesday afternoon, and his first training session with the team will be on the eve of the match, but Pulisic will play against Inter because he is already a pillar of the attack.
Samuel Chukwueze, another derby rookie, will take over during the second half. Yesterday he played and scored in the final quarter of an hour of Nigeria’s 6-0 win over Sao Tome and Principe, in African Cup of Nations qualifiers.
He will return to Milanello today but in the derby he will start from the bench, though he will be able to increase his playing time in the games to come.
Tijjani Reijnders in his career has never faced a team from the same city, and it will also be special for Luka Jovic, who instead will face Inter with his third different team after Eintracht Frankfurt and Fiorentina.
Luka Romero would also be making his debut if he came off the bench and could add a good dose of derby unpredictability, while Marco Pellegrino might make his debut too given the problems at centre-back.