Two teams travelling in opposite directions in Serie A will meet on Sunday in the latest Milan derby.
AC Milan, led by the perpetually angry Gennaro Gattuso, are unbeaten in 13 matches in all competitions and are on the way up.
Heading downwards, meanwhile, are neighbours Inter Milan who, under the increasingly perplexed Luciano Spalletti, have won only twice in the same number of games in what has been a remarkable change in fortunes.
Back in early December, Inter were unbeaten after 16 league games and top of the Serie A table with 40 points, 16 more than their neighbours who had just fired Vincenzo Montella and hired Gattuso for his first Serie A coaching role.
But, as they go into Sunday’s match, that gap is down to seven.
Milan, who at the worst point in their slump sunk to 11th place, are up to seventh and still climbing while Inter have dropped to fourth, 18 points behind leaders Napoli with any title pretensions having long since evaporated.
Gattuso is credited with restoring Milan’s self-belief which got another boost on Wednesday when they beat Lazio on penalties to reach the Coppa Italia final after grinding out a 0-0 draw over two legs of the semi-final.
“I haven’t become a guru on the bench, I’m not a great coach,” said Gattuso, whose team’s run began with a Cup win over Inter after Christmas.
“We don’t concede goals because we all work to cover the spaces and the whole team does that.
“We need to become a team that excites the supporters,” he added. “I feel that I am a fortunate coach and I am trying to make the most of the chance which has been given to me.”
While Gattuso tries to explain his success, his opposite number Spalletti has been searching for the reasons behind Inter’s slump.
One possibility is the drop in form of leading scorer Mauro Icardi who scored the last of his 18 league goals this season nearly two months ago and recently missed three games with a muscle injury.
Spalletti has also blamed the high expectations which were created by Inter’s flying start to the season and said rumours about possible new signings during the January transfer window may have unsettled his team.
Inter Milan forward Antonio Candreva said the derby tended to throw the form book out of the window in any case and ridiculed suggestions of tension among the players.
“Milan are enthusiastic at the moment but they’re still below us and we want to keep it that way,” he said.
“The derby is a match of its own, the derby is different from other games.
“It makes us laugh when we read that there’s tension between us in the dressing room, laughable things are being said and, at times it’s malicious but we can’t listen to external things, we can’t be interested in them,” he added.
“We are positive people, we want to reach our objective and the coach is right to say that it depends on us.”