Milan midfielder Franck Kessie has declared the Rossoneri will win Sunday’s derby against Serie A leaders Inter.
The 174th Milan derby in Serie A history will be the first since April 2011 that sees the two teams occupying the top two spots in the table.
That game ended in a 3-0 win for Milan that helped to propel them to their most recent Scudetto triumph, but Inter have the form heading into the latest contest: they have won four of the previous five encounters and are a point clear at the top of the table after winning 12 of their previous 15 league games.
Stefano Pioli’s side have lost three times in seven Serie A matches, as many as in their previous 41, and this year have already surpassed the two league losses they suffered in the whole of 2020.
Still, Kessie is in no doubt about their chances of moving back to the top with a victory at San Siro.
“There are still a lot of games left. And even if it seems there are lots of difficulties, we’ll win the derby and return to the top of the table,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“We’re a group that has grown through difficulty. We believe in the Scudetto. Everyone knows that, in Italy, you can beat the leaders and lose against the side bottom of the table. You don’t have to be worried.”
— AC Milan (@acmilan) February 20, 2021
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored 10 times in Milan derbies, with eight of those goals coming for Milan, including three in their two meetings this season.
The veteran striker netted twice in the 2-1 win in October in the reverse league fixture and opened the scoring in the Coppa Italia quarter-final last month, but he was then sent off in a game Milan went on to lose 2-1.
Kessie, though, is backing his team-mate to step up and take a penalty against his old club if the chance comes his way.
“If there’s a penalty, Ibra will take it. And he’ll be happy with the result,” Kessie said.
“From a technical point of view, he is unsurpassed. As a team-mate, he always gives you something more. You don’t often find champions with this personality.”
Kessie has developed into a key part of Pioli’s plans. The 24-year-old has played 31 times in all competitions in 2020-21 and won a combined 150 tackles and duels, the most of any midfielder at the club.
Kessie’s leadership on the pitch has helped him to earn the nickname of ‘the president’ – although he revealed there is another side to that story.
He explained: “I once arrived at Milanello and parked in [former CEO Ivan] Gazidis’ spot. They told me I couldn’t park there, and I replied, ‘What’s the problem? I’m the new CEO of Milan’.”