The Milan Derby. What a way for one of Inter Milan's favourite sons, Roberto Mancini, to make his return.
It's a surprise return, certainly, for the man who has recently wandered through England and Turkey before returning to the ground where he ultimately made his name as a manager. Mancini was in charge at Inter for four trophy-filled seasons, between 2004 and 2008, before leaving in less than harmonious circumstances with Jose Mourinho taking charge.
He returns to a very different Inter side, and one that will present him with his greatest managerial challenge thus far.
During his previous stint he managed sides that included quality stars or up-and-coming youngsters such as Javier Zanetti, Marco Materazzi, Walter Samuel, Adriano, Luis Figo, Juan Sebastian Veron, Patrick Vieira, Obafemi Martins, Mario Balotelli and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Those are some of more notable names, but the plain fact is that Mancini's Inter sides were blessed with talent. Not so much this current side.
There are definitely bright talents in the form of Mateo Kovacic and Mauro Icardi, as well as experienced, accomplished players like Gary Medel, Hernanes, Nemanja Vidic and Rodrigo Palacio. A decent list of names for sure but also a quite challenging task when you consider the team is a mixture of individuals brought in by different managers but ultimately set up to play in the favoured 3-5-2 setup of former manger Walter Mazzarri.
One positive is that this mixture of players, especially the very workmanlike midfield personnel, suits Mancini's cautious approach well. He can certainly go through the season grinding out the necessary results to meet the clubs goals.
The key goal being, as stated by club president Erick Thohir to Indonesian paper Topskor(h/t Goal.com), to get into Europe. Another positive is that, despite a slow start, Inter is still only three points away from a European spot despite sitting in ninth place. The top three spots may well be locked up by Juventus, Roma and Napoli but if Mancini gets it right then he could very well guide Inter to fourth or fifth.
So how does he go about doing that?
The first thing would be to set up the simplest formation and tactics for his side to navigate the games to come until the winter break. The varied mixture of talents in the midfield at his disposal means Mancini has a solid base to build around, especially when considering he is most likely to get his width from his full-back options. Gary Medel and Yann M'vila are good options for a functional double pivot in midfield but no shortage of options with Hernanes, Zdravko Kuzmanovic and Kovacic able to fill those roles as well.
It's highly unlikely that he'll stick with the three-man defense, so arguably his best defender, Vidic (if he's able to recover some form) will be more comfortable. Having only three forwards makes the decision to go with just one a little easier and Mancini usually goes with one forward anyway.
The hardest part of Mancini's task will be navigating the rest of the season, knowing it's very unlikely that he'll be able to bring in top talent in January. That may not even occur in the summer either. Mancini won't have the big budgets he's been used to in the past few seasons, or even during his previous stint with the club, so that is why, again, this is such a tough test.
Aside from tactics, Mancini will have to focus on keeping his players happy, something which, if you remember Carlos Tevez at Manchester City, you might say the Italian has a problem with. If nothing else, he has shown in the past that he can ease the pressure from his squad in tough situations, as David Silva noted during Manchester City's title chase, seen here on ESPN, back in 2012.
There's a good amount of experience in the side, and enough quality to make it into Europe if the right decisions are made, but it's the future that he needs to keep an eye on. Kovacic and Icardi are key here, again, and Mancini's track record in developing youth hasn't been spectacular despite his previous love/hate relationship with Mario Balotelli.
Mancini will have the backing of the supporters, and the board, but he will need to get off to a quick start. There will be no better way to do so than a derby victory.
The man with the scarf has rolled back into town on a chariot of blue and black, and he'll be hoping to bring the good times back to Inter as soon as possible.