Inter Need a Statement Victory in Saturday's Derby Della Madonnina Against Milan

Antonio Conte
This is a huge season for Antonio Conte and Inter | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

The 2020/21 season is a gargantuan one in Inter's modern history, make no bones about it.

After claiming unrivalled domestic success during Roberto Mancini's first stint at the Nerazzurri helm and achieving European glory - for the first time since Helenio Herrera's catenaccio era - under Jose Mourinho as part of an unprecedented treble, the 2010s was a decade of disappointment for Inter.

Luciano Spalletti's arrival in 2017 kickstarted a resurgence as they secured Champions League qualification for the first time since 2011 in his debut campaign, before the Italian's stint showed signs of stagnation at the end 2018/19.

Luciano Spalletti
Luciano Spalletti laid the foundations for the Nerazzurri's revitalisation | Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Step forward, Antonio Conte.

The Godfather's maiden term at the helm was typically chaotic; his Inter side played some scintillating - if not automated - stuff, threatened to usurp Juventus in Serie A for a while, reached a European final and almost concluded with his departure. That's Conte.

Nevertheless, the squad the grinta-obsessed boss inherited was one that, despite the Bianconeri's woes under Maurizio Sarri, wasn't quite fit to win a scudetto. It was Conte's superb coaching which squeezed every ounce of potential out of a unit which had some really nice pieces but was ultimately flawed, incomplete and shallow.

Following the summer transfer window, however, there's no doubting that the former Juventus and Chelsea boss now boasts a squad that can not only compete against the very best Italy has to offer, but Europe as well.

Aleksandar Kolarov, Roberto Insigne
Aleksandar Kolarov joined from Roma in the summer | Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images

Their window may not have been perfect; Ivan Perisic is the number one choice at left wing-back while there will be concerns as to whether Matteo Darmian and Aleksandar Kolarov are sufficient cover options at the exterior centre-back positions, but their overall improvements have been significant.

Achraf Hakimi alone was a transformative sort of addition, while Arturo Vidal will surely prove one of the bargains of the summer with his combative nature, savviness and capacity to contribute in all phases. The depth the Nerazzurri now possess is quite simply ridiculous, and while they have the potential to compete on both the domestic and continental fronts this term, Conte's priority will undoubtedly be the Scudetto.

Although, despite their promising work in the summer, Inter head into matchday four and the highly-anticipated Derby della Madonnina against Milan following a rather unconvincing - if not productive - start to the season.

Hakimi and their new-found depth spearheaded a late remontada against a Franck Ribery-inspired Fiorentina in a 4-3 triumph which embodied 'Pazza Inter' in their opening encounter before they enjoyed a 5-2 rout over newly-promoted Benevento as we saw just how destructive the Hakimi x Conte partnership could be.

Achraf Hakimi
Achraf Hakimi has notched an impressive three goal contributions (1G, 2A) in as many games to start the season | Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images

However, despite the impressive balance in La Viola's side, their first proper test arrived in their third encounter at Lazio. Through their efficient vertical play, rigid defence and prolific form of Ciro Immobile, the Biancocelesti were an absolute hit last term before injuries and a lack of depth ultimately curtailed their season. Their lack of investment in the summer means they're unlikely to pose a serious threat in the Scudetto race this time around, but they're a formidable, well-coached unit nonetheless.

A fierce contest ended 1-1, and if you were to grade the Nerazzurri's showing like an A-Level exam, perhaps a 'C' - or whatever number equivalent it is now - would be a fair assessment. A point at the Stadio Olimpico was a fine result and an improvement on last term, but it was a performance which would've left Conte feeling far from enthused.

Two weeks later, though, and another opportunity to make a Scudetto statement has presented itself in the form of the Derby della Madonnina against their rejuvenated city rivals.

Milan head into Saturday's contest amid a 19-game unbeaten run which stretches back to June. They're a side simply unrecognisable from Marco Giampaolo's frail unit, although Stefano Pioli's men did tease their renaissance potential in the previous meeting between the pair. Sure, they'd lose 4-2 in what was one of the games of the season but they absolutely battered Inter in the first half through the principles and nuances which have defined their current hot streak.

For Conte's Inter, who many believe are the most likely to end Juve's monopolisation of calcio this term, the importance of Saturday's contest extends beyond claiming mere bragging rights or the tangible reward of three points.

This will be a significant indicator of their credentials and the fixture has the potential to be a celebration of their evolvement under Conte - as well as their work in the transfer market. Last season, the Nerazzurri often came unstuck against the 'big' sides who opted to press them high with their unathletic wing-backs unable to exploit the space down the flanks.

Their lack of athleticism, meanwhile, meant they couldn't contribute effectively in all phases which forced Conte to rein in their offensive responsibilities to bolster Inter's defensive coverage. This, however, created new problems, with the Nerazzurri occasionally looking pretty toothless in attack due to Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez being starved of space without a constant source of width.

Theo Hernandez
Inter will look to exploit the space behind the attack-minded Theo Hernandez in transition on Saturday evening | Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Why is this particularly significant in relation to the derby? Well, under Pioli, Milan have sought to sustain attacks by committing both full-backs in attack. Theo Hernandez serves as a left winger almost.

Thus, Saturday's game should be in stark contrast to how Inter attacked out wide against more enterprising opposition last season. With Hakimi and Perisic now occupying the wing-back roles, Inter have the potential to kill Milan down the flanks with the space their aggressive full-backs surrender in behind.

Antonio Conte's Nerazzurri need to make a statement in the derby, and you can expect them to do so through their new-found threats in wide areas.