The Derby della Madonnina, named in reference to the gilded bronze statue of the Virgin Mary adorning the main spire of Milan Cathedral, has been played almost 300 times. The eternal struggle between the Nerazzurri and the Rossoneri has surpassed 100 years, with the pair's first match a friendly on 18 October 1908 in the Swiss town of Chiasso, which AC Milan won 2-1.

The long and distinguished history of one of Italy's biggest derbies has given rise to a host of intriguing side notes. These include stories of legendary one-club men like AC Milan's Paolo Maldini and Inter's Giuseppe Bergomi, brothers playing on opposite sides of the divide (such as Giuseppe Baresi at Inter and Franco at AC) as well as some truly remarkable results.

Indeed, in February 1910 the Milanese bragging rights firmly belonged to the Interista faithful, the men in blue-and-black stripes overwhelming their city rivals 5-0 away and 5-1 at home in the space of 11 days. Their Milanista counterparts would have their revenge the following year, however, recording an emphatic 6-3 away victory as part of a sequence of six consecutive derby successes spanning from 5 February 1911 to 9 February 1913. 

Nineteen years later, on 6 November 1932, came one of the most prolific matches in the history of this classic rivalry, a Giuseppe Meazza-inspired Inter edging a thrilling game 5-4. This was part of an impressive run of 17 derbies without defeat for the Nerazzurri, who racked up ten wins and seven draws against their fierce rivals between 10 November 1929 and 17 October 1937.

The post-war era continued to excite. Clear examples of the champagne football enjoyed by the tifosi came in two matches in 1949, ones which included three goals apiece from AC Milan's Gunnar Nordahl and Istvan Nyers of Inter. The first of these, on 6 February, ended all square at 4-4 with the second, on 6 November, ending in a 6-5 success for Nyers and Co.

And on 27 November 1960, the Rossoneri's Brazilian-born Italian international striker Jose Altafini grabbed the first four-goal haul in a Milan derby in his team's 5-3 victory. Another curious sequence came in five encounters played between 28 October 1984 and 1 December 1986, AC Milan scoring twice on each occasion on the way to two wins and three draws.

Milan dominant, Inter resurgent
With Milan's dominance of Italian football in the early 1990s, the Milan rivalry burst into life in the 2000s, with AC Milan's record 6-0 'home' defeat of Inter in 2001 inflicting a nadir on the Nerrazzuri. In 2005, an ill-tempered UEFA Champions League quarter-final saw Milan progress with a 3-0 'away' win, after the second leg was abandoned in the second half due to crowd trouble. Inter then ended a long losing streak against their neighours with a dramatic 3-2 win thanks to a last-minute Adriano header.

After the Calciopoli scandal rocked the country, Inter became the dominant force in Italian football, winning four consecutive titles including the first 'treble' for an Italian club under Jose Mourinho in 2010. From 2006-2010, Inter won six out of the eight Serie A derbies. With Juventus leading the way in Serie A since 2011, the derbies have taken on less significance with regards to the title.

"It's like Manchester United v Arsenal compared to ten years ago - it's not as big now because of the players in it," former Inter star Paul Ince told BBC Radio 5 Live before the first Derby della Madonnina of 2014/15. "The rivalry is so unique. The fans are so passionate - AC Milan are known as the aristocrats and Inter Milan have been known as the paupers."

It remains to be seen whether the rivalry will return to the upper echelons of Serie A, but one thing is certain, the residents of Milan will continue to build up to derby day from the moment the fixtures are released before every campaign, for the next 100 years and beyond.