MILAN (Reuters) – Goals are likely to be in short supply when misfiring neighbours AC Milan and Inter Milan clash in their derby at San Siro on Sunday (1945 GMT) if this season’s form is anything to go by.
AC Milan coach Sinisa Mihajlovic and Inter counterpart Roberto Mancini have blamed erratic finishing for their troubles as the two giants once again find themselves off the Serie A pace.
Once the highlight of the Serie A season, the fixture has become a sideshow to the title race in recent seasons as both teams’ fortunes have slumped.
Inter, leaders earlier in the season, have dropped to joint third alongside Fiorentina (41 points) and are six points behind leaders Napoli, while Milan are a further eight points behind in sixth.
Napoli (47) host Empoli on Sunday (1400 GMT) and second-placed Juventus (45), who have won their last 11 league games, visit Chievo (1130).
Inter have managed a paltry 26 goals in their 21 outings and Milan 29, compared to 45 for Napoli where Gonzalo Higuain alone has netted 21.
Mauro Icardi is Inter’s top scorer with eight while, of the other forwards, Stevan Jovetic has mustered four, Adem Ljajic two and Rodrigo Palacio and Jonathan Biabany one each.
Mancini’s frustration boiled over after his side were held 1-1 at home to relegation-threatened Carpi last Sunday.
Mancini said that, even at the age of 50, he was sure he would have done better than Icardi with one of the chances the Argentine missed and said his forwards were simply waiting for the ball to come to them.
“This is our toughest time of the season so far but all teams go through spells like this,” said Mancini, whose side then lost 3-0 to Juventus in the Italian Cup on Wednesday.
“We just need to stay calm and keep working away. That’s the only way we can get ourselves back on track,” he said, adding he was hopeful that the club could sign Brazil-born Italy striker Eder from Sampdoria.
“If he were to join us I think he could give us a big hand in the league,” he said.
Milan have been hampered by injuries to forward Jeremy Menez, who has not played all season, and Mario Balotelli, who has been out for three months with a groin problem.
Balotelli scored in the 1-0 Coppa Italia win over third tier Alessandria on Tuesday but Mihajlovic said he was not ready for the derby.
Of the other forwards, Carlos Bacca has been the outstanding performer with 10 goals while Luiz Adriano has managed three and M’Baye Niang two.
“We create a lot chances but don’t score enough,” said Mihajlovic. “A win in the derby would be a boost for the table and morale.
“We have the ability to beat them and we will prepare well ahead of the match. When we have a chance to score, we need to take it, otherwise we will make it hard for ourselves to win.”
(Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne. Editing by Patrick Johnston)