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Derby day puts Milan giants in Serie A title spotlight

Argentine forward Lautaro Martinez will lead Inter attack against Milan. Photo: AFPz

Italy’s Milan giants face off in Saturday’s local derby which pits Serie A’s form teams against one another in a match which will give an early indication of their title credentials.

The San Siro will host a rematch of last season’s Champions League semi-final, a fixture that promises similar fireworks to the two blockbuster clashes in May which went Inter’s way.

Inter and AC Milan are locked on nine points at the top of the table after perfect starts from both in which summer signings have made an immediate impact.

Simone Inzaghi’s Inter have scored eight times without conceding in their opening three matches thanks to a strike partnership between Lautaro Martinez and new arrival Marcus Thuram which has brought seven goals.

Milan meanwhile have a trio of new signings thrilling fans alongside their established stars, with Tijjani Reijnders and Chelsea old boys Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Cristian Pulisic hitting the ground running.

Stefano Pioli has Milan playing an entertaining, fluid style of football boosted by Pulisic’s presence on the right wing, which has freed up star man Rafael Leao and given increased service to four-goal Olivier Giroud who should start despite picking up an ankle knock on international duty.

“We’ve started really well and I know that we’ll do all we can,” USA forward Pulisic told the Gazzetta Dello Sport.

“We’re hopeful for the Scudetto, we’ve got good players and a great mix of talent. We can win.”

Troubled Pogba

Inter have, Thuram aside, a similar starting XI to the one which lost to Manchester City in Istanbul in June but have quality back up in the likes of Juan Cuadrado and Davide Frattesi.

Midfielder Frattesi hasn’t started since arriving from Sassuolo but impressed for Italy with a brace against Ukraine on Tuesday night, putting pressure on Inzaghi to pick the 22-year-old.

Juventus, two points behind the Milan duo, kick off the weekend’s action at home to Lazio rocked by Paul Pogba’s provisional suspension for a doping violation.

France star Pogba has a potential four-year ban hanging over his head for elevated levels of testosterone after being tested following a match in which he didn’t even play.

On Thursday a source told AFP that midfielder Pogba has requested examination of the ‘B’ sample taken during the doping test, and a positive result would reportedly put the 30-year-old at risk of having his contract terminated by Juve.

It is yet another destabilising scandal for Juve, who were docked 10 points last season for alleged illicit transfer activity and await a potential, related criminal trial for fraud.

A tough week for Juve, who are not accused of any wrongdoing in Pogba’s doping violation, got worse with reports that next week’s board meeting will confirm a 115 million-euro loss for last season.

Juve are also being sued by Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci who confirmed on Thursday legal action over how he was frozen out by Juve, in a manner he considers “humiliating” and against professional football’s collective bargaining agreement.

Player to watch: Matteo Guendouzi

Midfielder Guendouzi is set to make his first start for Lazio at Juve on Saturday afternoon after making a serious impression just before the international break.

The 24-year-old was excellent in his debut as a substitute in Lazio’s 2-1 win at champions Napoli and should start in place of Japan’s Daichi Kamada, given him the chance to battle with compatriot Adrien Rabiot.

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