The eyes of Italian sports enthusiasts will turn towards the Lombardy region and its capital Milan on Sunday evening, when the city's two footballing giants AC and Inter are set for a showdown at the San Siro.

Adding spice to an already heady mix is the flurry of new faces sure to make an appearance. Both sides spent freely during the close season, signing proven performers such as Ronaldinho, Gianluca Zambrotta, Mancini and Ricardo Quaresma to squads already boasting the likes of Paolo Maldini, Kaka, Adriano and Javier Zanetti.

Nor must we neglect to mention the new man in charge of the Nerazzurri, the Portuguese Jose Mourinho. True to form, 'The Special One' announced his intention to "win every competition we enter" at his very first press conference.

And of the duo that battle for the hearts and minds of fans in the country's economic capital, it is Inter who have started the stronger, following up an opening-day draw at Sampdoria with wins over Catania, Torino and Lecce. Neighbours AC, for their part, were beaten 2-1 at home by Bologna before a 2-0 away reverse against Genoa. Having got back on track with a convincing 4-1 win over high-flying Lazio, Milan continued their recovery with a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Reggina.

Can the Rossoneri make it three in a row this Sunday and put an end to Inter's unbeaten start?

Altafini grabs first four-goal haul
This fixture, known as the Madonnina Derby in reference to the gilded bronze statue of the Virgin Mary adorning the main spire of Milan Cathedral, is the 269th meeting between the two rivals and the 171st in Serie A. This weekend's tie comes nearly 100 years on from 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.

The last six matches between the arch-rivals show three victories apiece, though Inter are still smarting from a record 6-0 'home' defeat by AC on 11 May 2001. As notionally the visiting team for Sunday's match, how the Nerazzurri would love to repay the favour in the first Madonnina Derby of the 2008/09 Serie A campaign.