Their head to head heavyweight “clash” marked the recent Milan-Inter derby (1-2) in the Italian Cup. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Romelu Lukaku meet on Sunday (2:00 p.m. GMT) with the first place in the Italian Championship at stake this time.

Not really the best friends in the world when they rubbed shoulders at Manchester United (2017-18), the 39-year-old Swede and the 27-year-old Belgian will still be the center of attention – those of cameras and microphones in particular – during this derby at the top between the Nerazzurri who took the lead last weekend and the Rossoneri at one point.

The image of the two giants face to face on January 26 embodies the rivalry of the moment between the two clubs which had not been at such a party in the league for a decade.

The “clash” was even immortalized this week by a fresco painted on a wall next to San Siro.

The altercation, which earned both players a yellow card (“Ibra” having been sent off in the second half after a second warning), is not over for the sports authorities. After hearing the parties concerned, they could take other sanctions, such as a possible suspension (during a cup match).

Among the insults exchanged, the Swede was notably accused of referring to the Congolese origins of the Belgian international, evoking voodoo beliefs. Charges totally rejected by “Ibra” and his club.

– Lukaku “authoritarian” –

Beyond their old differences, “Ibra” and “Big Rom” are in direct competition this year in the scorers standings, with 14 goals for the Swede and 16 for the Belgian.

With a brace (and an assist) last weekend against Lazio Rome (3-1), Lukaku took over from the Swede and joined the top scorers Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus).

Lukaku also took the opportunity to score the 300th goal in his career (clubs and selection combined) but above all installed Inter in the leader’s chair by taking advantage of the surprise misstep of AC Milan at the promoted La Spezia (0 -2).

“He gave a nice response after a little less brilliant matches”, rejoiced Antonio Conte after this new XXL performance of the Belgian, essential to the Nerazzurri this season with its power and speed.

“For all the players, there are inevitably more difficult moments. Today he returned in an authoritarian manner, we need this Romelu”, he added about the Belgian author of 22 goals in all competitions.

– “Ibra” loves the derby –

“Ibra”, with his 14 goals in 12 matches played in the league, can boast of the best goal average in relation to the time spent on the field (1 goal every 70 minutes).

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Like Lukaku at Inter, “Ibra” remains indispensable at Milan with this extraordinary efficiency and the confidence he diffuses to his young partners. But the Swede has less impact than the Belgian on the play of his team, which depends above all on the legs of his teammates, more in difficulty for a few matches.

But there is no doubt that the Swedish star, left on the bench Thursday in Belgrade against the Red Star (2-2) in the Europa League, will be keen to be forgiven, after leaving his team at ten in the cup against the Nerazzurri.

Especially since the Madonnina derby (it will be the 228th of the name), which he played in both shirts, generally succeeds him well: ten goals scored, including four in the last three played since his return to Serie A in January 2020.

“And Zlatan does not accept certain things”, recalled this week the Gazzetta dello sport, stressing that, Sunday at the kick-off, it is indeed Lukaku who “will look down on him twice, as leader of the championship and as co-leader of the scorers classification “.