MILAN (AFP) – Zlatan Ibrahimovic prepares to return in tonight’s Milan derby but Juventus will be without Cristiano Ronaldo as Serie A swings back into action after the international break in the shadow of coronavirus.
In a week where Napoli were deducted a point and handed a 3-0 defeat to Juventus for failing to turn up for their match because of two virus cases, COVID-19 looks set to be a game-changer in a season already in turmoil going into round four.
“The real victory is to finish the championship, the result is secondary,” said Juventus captain Giorgio Chiellini as his team headed back into isolation after Weston McKennie tested positive with Ronaldo returning with the virus from international duty in Portugal.
But Ibrahimovic has recovered and is keen to pick up where he left off after a double against Bologna before his illness, but also to make up for AC Milan’s defeat against Inter last season.
Ibrahimovic scored back in February only for Inter to power back and win a pulsating derby 4-2 in the San Siro.
The Swede has not played a game since September 21, but the 39-year-old continued to train intensely during quarantine.
In spite of his absence, Milan have made a decent start to the season, having climbed to second, with three wins from three games and reaching the group stages of the Europa League.
Stefano Pioli’s side are second behind Atalanta who also have three wins, but an impressive 13 goals scored.
Inter Milan, meanwhile, have six players in isolation – Ashley Young, Alessandro Bastoni, Milan Skriniar, Radja Nainggolan, Roberto Gagliardini and Ionut Radu – as they chase a fifth straight derby win.
Antonio Conte’s side have seven points from three matches, with Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martínez hitting six of Inter’s 10 goals so far.
Conte has never lost to Pioli in Serie A.
Atalanta face a fiery trip to a Napoli side furious at the “injustice” of their punishment which pushed them down to eighth after winning their first two matches.
Napoli are appealing the decision, and are boosted with all players having tested negative in the latest round of tests.
Champions Juventus head south to promoted Crotone without Ronaldo, having moved up to fourth position after being handed the win over Napoli.