Despite an energy sapping 120 minutes of knockout action midweek against Lazio, the AC Milan engine room will need to be running at full speed again when facing city rivals Inter on Sunday night.
Lucas Biglia, Giacomo Bonaventura and Franck Kessie – the Ivorian substituted after 96 minutes – have played a massive role in the Rossoneri resurgence under coach Gennaro Gattuso.
Whatever stage of the season the Derby della Madonnina is hard to call, but with the Diavolo unbeaten in Serie A since Christmas, has the potential to halt the momentum that has Milan seven points from Champions League qualification.
At the beginning of the campaign under Vincenzo Montella, the trio, and several of the Rossoneri’s summer arrivals, looked like components no one could put together. Gattuso, or time, finally got them firing in-sync.
Argentine defensive shield Biglia is displaying the composure and distribution witnessed in a Biancocelesti shirt, while Kessie is adding dynasism to his already boundless energy – netting both goals in a recent win over Cagliari.
To further supplement the strength of the Rossoneri midfield, is the ability to replace the pair on occasion with the experience of veteran Riccardo Montolivo and Bonaventura finding a goalscoring touch.
In contrast the reverse has been the case for the Nerazzurri, who navigated their way quietly to the Serie A summit early season, but are flirting dangerously with missing out on the Champions League.
That initial accent focused on the goals of Mauro Icardi and Ivan Perisic, but undermined the contribution of Borja Valero, Matias Vecino and Roberto Gagliardini forming the basis for their attacking endeavours.
However, Marcelo Brozovic often spearheaded a midfield triangle, before Spanish schemer Valero was moved into the advanced role for Inter’s 3-2 derby victory in October and draw with Napoli.
Five months later the Biscione midfield appear unable to control games as the were during the opening weeks of the campaign and could be outmuscled by Biglia and Kessie at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza.
Last time out against Benevento, Luciano Spalletti’s men looked painfully lacking physicality, and even positional sense, as their opponents bypassed them en route to goal – Massimo Coda almost giving the Serie A minnows the lead just before Inter scored.
With the midfield units of both sides likely to be similar to those that have contested this terms other two derbies – a 1-0 Coppa Italia win for Milan the latest – form could be what takes the points on Sunday.
However, with while Milan appear to be sweeping all before them with Gattuso like determination, the quality within the Nerazzurri can always resurface to bring the Rossoneri machine to a juddering stop.
What is for certain, is that a fascinating battle in the middle third awaits the San Siro crowd when the play gets underway in Milan.