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Higuain and Icardi: The two Argentine goalscorers battling to be King of Milan

Higuain and Icardi: The two Argentine goalscorers battling to be King of Milan

Leading the line for two Milanese clubs is a daunting task but both players are showing their class in Serie A.

ON Sunday afternoon, AC Milan welcomed Chievo to San Siro for a potentially tricky encounter, the visitors having a long-established reputation as Serie A’s version of West Brom or Stoke. Tough, physical and never guilty of giving less than 100%, they are always ready to capitalise against opponents who underestimate them, all things the Rossoneri have been repeatedly guilty of in recent campaigns.

But this season there is something very different about the red and black half of the Italian city, much of it stemming from the man in their no.9 shirt. Gonzalo Higuain is often derided as a player, but for those who have spent the last few years watching him closely at club level, he is undeniably deadly as a striker, and in this game he would prove it once again.

Playing all 90 minutes, he turned in an outstanding performance, providing a focal point for the Milan attack and puncturing the Chievo rearguard with alarming regularity. He needed just four shots to score a brace that gave his side a 2-0 lead which they would never relinquish, but the 30-year-old’s all-round play was equally eye-catching.

Far from just being a poacher, Higuain was superb throughout, figures from Opta showing he connected with 26 of 28 pass attempts and laid on two clear scoring opportunities for his team-mates, while also enjoying success with his lone take-on. It left his coach praising his display and admitting just how important he was in helping an underperforming side achieve the results they deserved.

“The performances were always there, we were just missing the three points,” Rossoneri boss Gennaro Gattuso told Sky Italia shortly after the final whistle. “Higuain is a champion, a great finisher, a lad who at this moment is working really hard for the group, is demanding and also well-loved.”

Yet if the former Juve and Napoli hitman has just begun to make an impact upon Milan, a few hours later and some 125 miles southeast of San Siro, one of his compatriots was about to repeat what he has been doing for city cousins Inter for quite some time. Like their neighbours, the Nerazzurri were competing in a difficult fixture away to SPAL at the Stadio Paolo Mazza, a ground where they were held to a 1-1 draw by the same opponent last term.

This time around there would be no nervous glances, no angry reactions at the final whistle and no such drama, as Mauro Icardi put the minnows to the sword. It took him just 14 minutes to find the back of the net, stooping to nod Sime Vrsaljko’s cross beyond the helpless goalkeeper via a deflection, but there would be no doubts about his second later in the match.

Latching onto a through ball from Ivan Perisic, the Argentinian striker snatched all three points as he span and then slotted his shot into the bottom corner of the goal. He knew that he had been decisive, but was also happy to credit SPAL for their efforts both in this encounter and the previous one.

“They were important goals to give us the three points,” Icardi said after the 2-1 win. “We struggled here last season and knew we had to give something more this term. It’s important that we got the result and fought hard to win the game.”

The brace took his tally in all competitions to five, just one behind Higuain who – after a slow start to the campaign – has now scored in each of his last five games. That the duo are in such rampant form bodes well for their respective teams, particularly as they go head-to-head in the first match after the international break.

Played at one of European football’s most iconic stadia and contested by two of the continent’s most prestigious sides, the Milan derby needs little introduction, but this latest instalment promises to be extra special, as the Argentinian duo look set to duel for victory.

Another of their countrymen who knows all too well what such clashes mean was happy to discuss the pair, Inter legend Esteban Cambiasso reflected upon Inter’s win and comparing the two strikers. “In Ferrara, the Nerazzurri were able to turn it on at the right time, against a SPAL team who had an excellent match,” he said in an appearance on Sky Italia. “Choosing between them is not a simple question because Pipita [Higuain] has more experience compared to the Nerazzurri number 9, but Icardi can certainly reach that level.”

Perhaps that is the most noteworthy point when discussing this pair, the Inter man some five years younger yet already with two Serie A top scorer crowns to his name. His latest strikes mean he has scored as many goals for the club as Christian Vieri did, yet Icardi has so much of his career left ahead of him.

Despite a lengthy list of suitors, Inter will hope that he plays that time out in their colours, but first and foremost they will be looking to beat Milan when domestic football resumes next week. Standing in their way is Higuain, and he admitted at the weekend that he is enjoying life in his new home. 

“I feel like I am already part of this club, as there’s a fantastic group that works hard,” he told reporters after his own two-goal outing. Milan gave me so much confidence and support from the first day and I want to repay them for that. Now we’ve got to start looking towards the derby and will try to beat Inter.”

Thanks to Mauro Icardi and Gonzalo Higuain, a mouthwatering clash now looks even more tasty. Roll on next Sunday!






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Adam Digby
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