Milan Derby: Bitter rivals experience contrasting fortunes in Serie A

    Story highlights

    • First Milan Derby of the season takes place on Sunday
    • Milan have so far struggled, while Inter sit in third

    (CNN)This was supposed to be AC Milan's year.

    A summer of heavy investment, bankrolled by the club's new Chinese owners, was meant to signal the start of a return to the glory days in which the Rossoneri competed with Europe's elite.
      An entirely new starting XI could be fielded from the players acquired, with Milan boasting the signings of Leonardo Bonucci from reigning Serie A champions Juventus, promising midfielder Franck Kessie and Portugal's brightest young star, striker Andre Silva.
      Seven league games into the season, however, and the influx of stars have so far failed to gel and find consistency as a team.
      Solid, if not spectacular, wins have been punctuated by comprehensive, humbling defeats -- a 4-1 hammering away to Lazio stands out as a particular low point -- leaving the Rossoneri seventh in Serie A.
      And if Milan lose to city rivals Inter in Sunday's match their hopes of securing a Champions League place next season could suffer significant damage.

      'Special atmosphere'

      City rivals Inter, conversely, enjoyed a much quieter summer.
      Perhaps the club's best piece of business was holding onto Croatian Ivan Perisic who, for much of the transfer window, was reportedly a target for Manchester United.
      The tall, athletic winger has gone on to sign a new deal with Inter until 2022 and rewarded his employers with three goals in the opening seven league games.
      Star striker Mauro Icardi -- who has a endured complicated relationship with his own fans -- continues to be prolific in front of goal, notching six in just seven appearances already this season.
      Both Serie A derbies between these two clubs finished 2-2 last season and Inter midfielder Antonio Candreva is determined for his side to do better on Sunday.
      "City derbies are always unique matches, be it in Rome or Milan," he told the Inter website. "The week ahead of the derby has a very special atmosphere.
      "Last year, I scored twice in my first two derbies here in Milan but we drew both, I want to win this time, it doesn't matter who scores.
      "We're looking good in the standings but we know that we can always improve and that's what we intend to do, bring good play and victories together. The important thing is to always give your best and leave the pitch with a shirt covered in sweat."
      Inter currently sit pretty in third, level on points with Juventus and just two behind early pacesetters Napoli.
      For AC Milan, Sunday's derby presents an opportunity to get the club's faltering start to the season back on track and close the seven point gap that has opened up to rivals Inter.
      Victory for the Nerazzurri, on the other hand, could perhaps prompt fans to begin wondering whether its time for the club to retake its place at the top table of Italian football.