Inter Milan will be out to heap further misery on struggling city rivals AC Milan but unfortunately for the 18-times Serie A champions, their most passionate fans will be absent from the Sunday's much anticipated derby showdown.
Serie A's disciplinary tribunal ordered the closure of the San Siro's Curva Nord section for two games to punish Inter's hardcore supporters for the offensive chants directed at Napoli fans during last weekend's 4-2 defeat.
The decision has outraged both sets of Milan fans, who argue the encounter will now be devoid of its usual vibrant atmosphere, and many have suggested boycotting Sunday's game in protest.
"Inter were right to suggest appealing the decision because a derby without the curvas loses a bit of its appeal. I hope there's news on this before the game," Inter captain Javier Zanetti told reporters.
Despite the muted atmosphere, Inter will be keen to confirm their recent revival under new boss Walter Mazzarri after a miserable campaign last season left them out of Europe.
With one round of games to go before the winter break, Inter are fifth on 28 points having scored 36 goals in 16 games, the most in the league.
However, they are seven points behind third-placed Napoli after losing in San Paolo last Sunday, and they will be hoping Rafael Benitez's side drop points at Cagliari on Saturday to keep them in touch with a return to the Champions League.
Milan unexpectedly are floundering in 10th place on 19 points, nine behind their local rivals and 24 points behind leaders Juventus, after winning only four league games.
Despite their mediocre displays, they are the only Italian side to progress to the knockout stages of the Champions League and there are hopes that a derby win could launch a similar comeback to last season's, when they came from nowhere to snatch Champions League spot on the final day.
Their campaign has been rocked by injuries to strikers Giampaolo Pazzini and Stephan El Shaarawy, boardroom unrest and constant uncertainty over the position of coach Massimiliano Allegri.
On Thursday Silvio Berlusconi said that he will start to have a closer relationship with the club again following his expulsion from the Italian parliament.
"Remember when I arrived we were in Serie B and I promised that I was going to make Milan the best team in the world. No one believed me, not even the players," said Berlusconi.
"Now I will go back to working personally on the team in order to revive it in the league and Champions League."
Opta head-to-head stats
- This will be the 159th derby between Inter and AC Milan in Serie A: the Nerazzurri lead by 59 wins to 49, with 50 draws (incl. last February’s 1-1).
- AC Milan’s last win in a derby was in April 2009 (3-0).
- The last time that AC Milan had failed to win four derbies in a row was in 1999.
- Inter have won six of the last eight derbies played as hosts.
- Walter Mazzarri’s side are winless in their last four league games (3D, 1L), while the Rossoneri have won only one of the last eight (5D, 2L).
- AC Milan’s last four Serie A fixtures have seen both sides scoring.
- Inter have the best attack of this Serie A campaign (36 goals), while only four sides have conceded more goals than AC Milan (25).
- However, AC Milan’s attack has been the most prolific in the last 15 minutes of play (nine goals).
- Inter have drawn six games from leading situations – more than any other side.
- Rodrigo Palacio is the top goalscorer involved in this clash (nine goals this term), but he’s never scored against AC Milan.
- Mario Balotelli has scored three goals over his last three league appearances, as many as he had netted over the previous eight.
- Yuto Nagatomo scored his fourth goal of the season last weekend – the Japan international is the top-scoring defender of this campaign.
- After Zapata’s equalizer against Roma on Monday, AC Milan now boast 12 different goalscorers – only Roma have more in this competition (13).
Foreign matches covered live on site this weekend