MILAN (Reuters) – After an absence of seven and a half years and at the age of 38, Zlatan Ibrahimovic will renew his acquaintance with the Milan Derby on Sunday, where he could strike a blow to Inter Milan's Serie A rival Title Challenge.
AC Milan Zlatan Ibrahimovic during the game. REUTERS / Daniele Mascolo
The Swede has sparked a revival at AC Milan, unbeaten since arriving in early January, and has given hope that he can end his weak performance against the second-placed Inter, who need a win to maintain pressure on the Juventus leadership ,
Juve, who has won a ninth title in a row, is three points ahead of Inter and will face Verona on Saturday, while third-placed Lazio will be visiting Parma on Sunday.
Ibrahimovic, one of more than three dozen players who played on both sides in the Derby della Madonnina, missed the 1-1 draw with Milan against Verona on Sunday due to the flu, but the club's football boss, Zvonimir Boban, has assured that he will be fit for Sunday.
Ibrahimovic knows everything about the pressure of the game, which he played six times for Inter Milan between 2006 and 2009, where he was on the winning side four times and scored twice.
After an unfortunate season in Barcelona, he moved to Milan. His first derby on the other side of the fence was probably the most memorable when he scored the only goal and retaliated against inter-defender Marco Materazzi four years earlier.
“Everyone was against me and that motivated me. I won a penalty and who fouled me? Materazzi. 1-0 in Milan, ”he said in an interview in December with the Italian edition of GQ magazine.
"In the second half, I met (Materazzi) with a train from Taekwondo and sent him to the hospital," added Ibrahimovic, who was still thinking about a duel between Materazzi in 2006 when he played for Juventus. "What goes around comes around."
Despite Ibrahimovic's comment, Materazzi suffered no serious injuries and played for Inter two weeks later.
Ibrahimovic played a total of five times in the Milan match and his last appearance in May 2012 was bittersweet. He scored two goals, but Milan lost 4-2, ending his hopes of winning the season this season. You haven't won a big cup since then.
Inter have won the last three games between teams and have not lost to Milan in Serie A in over four years, despite being defeated at Coppa Italia in 2017/18.
Milan had a tough season before Ibrahimovic returned to a second stint and was struck 5-0 by Atalanta in the last game before his arrival. Since then, they have won five games and played two of their seven games in a tie.
“Zlatan has a special personality. He has a special professionalism. He entered the locker room with special humility, ”said Boban.
"It was not so easy to know the strength of the impact. But he understood the atmosphere in the locker room, the delicacy of the moment."
Written by Brian Homewood; Cut by Toby Davis