Ibrahimovic return adds spice to Milan derby

MILAN (AFP) – Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s return to AC Milan will add spice to the city derby against Inter Milan tomorrow with the Swede looking to thwart Antonio Conte’s side from keeping pace with Serie A leaders Juventus.

Ibrahimovic played his first Milan derby as an Inter player 13 years ago, while his last was for rivals AC Milan in May 2012, when he scored a double in a 4-2 defeat.

Ibrahimovic was the top scorer that season with 28 goals but Milan lost the Serie A title to Conte’s Juventus, the first in the Turin giants’ current run of eight league crowns.

The 38-year-old’s return to Milan – whom he helped to their last Serie A title in 2011 – has proved a boost with his side now eighth, seven points adrift of the Champions League berths.

Milan were on a three-match winning run with Ibrahimovic on the pitch but were held 1-1 by Hellas Verona last weekend when the Swede was sidelined by the flu.

AC Milan Director Zvonimir Boban praised Ibrahimovic’s impact, insisting the Swede was pushing to be ready for “a unique derby”.

File photo shows AC Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic jumping for the ball against Torino’s Armando Izzo during an Italian Cup match. PHOTO: AP

Ibrahimovic, meanwhile, posted on Twitter a video of himself roaring, with the caption, “Lions don’t sound like humans.”

Stefano Pioli’s Milan come up against an Inter who have been transformed since Conte’s arrival last June. They are just three points behind Juventus, who travel to Verona.

Milan lost the reverse fixture 2-0 last September under Marco Giampaolo, who was sacked after just seven games.

Last summer Inter signed Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez, the latter on loan, from Manchester United.

Conte again raided the Premier League during the winter break, bringing in Christian Eriksen, Ashley Young and Victor Moses.

“He’ll be more used to this type of game, I’m just starting,” said former Tottenham midfielder Eriksen of Ibrahimovic, adding he was relishing his first Derby della Madonnina.

“I’ve seen it on TV in the past but playing now will be very different,” the Dane told Gazzetta Dello Sport.

“Compared to London, I expect a different atmosphere, here the whole stadium sings, there will be so much noise, it will be beautiful.”

Juventus travel to Verona tonight with Cristiano Ronaldo bidding to extend his scoring streak to 10 consecutive league games, to keep pace with Lazio’s Serie A top scorer Ciro Immobile’s 25 goals.

Verona are on a seven-game unbeaten run and held in-form Lazio to a goalless draw in Rome midweek.

Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio are just one point behind Inter Milan in third and will be targetting a record 18th successive match unbeaten.