Milan Derby: How managers Luciano Spalletti and Gennaro Gattuso will approach the crunch clash

Chloe Beresford by Chloe Beresford / 18 October 2018, 11:59

The Milan derby is one of the most widely viewed matches in world football, the historic matchup between the red-and-black and the black-and-blue kits iconic in its very nature.

Millions will tune in across the globe this Sunday, desperate to catch a goal from either side’s top forwards, Rossoneri hitman Gonzalo Higuain joining Mauro Icardi of Inter to make a pair of in-form strikers ready to find the net at any given moment.

While the focus of the media has been very much geared towards the Argentine duo, the head-to-head between Coaches provides an equally fascinating angle for this weekend’s Derby della Madonnina.

Novice Milan boss Gennaro Gattuso will take on the vastly more experienced Luciano Spalletti in the Inter dugout, yet the latter is yet to record a win (one loss and one draw) versus his cross-city counterpart.

Yet it is not just the age difference – Gattuso only 40 years old while Spalletti is 19 years his senior – that sets this pair apart. Both have endured periods of criticism for mixed results during their time under the spotlight at two of Serie A’s biggest clubs, however they have responded in different ways.

Spalletti has experimented with different lineups and formations, while former Rangers midfielder Gattuso has stuck to a consistent XI within his preferred 4-3-3.

It is difficult to judge comparative progress that has originated from very distinct philosophies in the current league table, as Milan have a game in hand from the postponement of their opening fixture versus Genoa following the bridge collapse tragedy.

Should they win the rescheduled match on October 31st, it would take Gattuso’s men to just one point behind Inter, but of course the Nerazzurri already have the points in the bag.

Spalletti’s side sit third in the table with 16 points from eight matches, the Coach having employed a 3-4-2-1, and a 4-4-1-1 formation before finally settling on a 4-2-3-1. Since he did so, results have improved, but the boss is still rotating his starting lineup on a regular basis, with goalkeeper Samir Handanovic the only player to have played from the first minute of every match so far.

Aside from the reserve goalkeepers, defender Andrea Ranocchia and out-of-favour Joao Mario are the only members of the Nerazzurri squad not to have seen any action, as Spalletti is keen to make the most of all of the resources available to him.

Although Gattuso is far younger, the former combative Milan midfielder has taken a more traditional approach to both formation and lineup.

His 4-3-3 has a consistent midfield of Giacomo Bonaventura, Franck Kessie and Lucas Biglia used for every game, while striker Gonzalo Higuain has only failed to start twice in the league due to injury. Preferring to rotate for Europa League group stage matches, Gattuso is clearly building a solid platform for domestic fixtures, developing the attributes of each of the starters.


“He’s trying to get the best out of me,” Higuain revealed in Thursday morning’s edition of La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“I really appreciate those who do that with me. The team is behind him, he’s a very intense person who would die for his players.

“I don’t think all Coaches are like that, there aren’t many of them and it’s an honour to be coached by him. I made the right choice, because he’s making me better.”

This is a bold statement from a player who has appeared for Juventus, Napoli, Real Madrid and the Argentina national team, and the approach of Gattuso is clear from both his matchday choices and statements from his players.

Inter boss Spalletti has the experience to handle a constant system of rotation, but his approach sets off alarm bells in terms of his habit of yielding inconsistency of results. However, this is a question for another day, the derby the unique focus for both bosses at the present moment.

They may be entirely separate in their experience and approach, but Luciano Spalletti and Gennaro Gattuso have one thing in common on Sunday: A desire to win.

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