The stakes ahead of Saturday's Euro 2008 qualifier between Italy and France have just reached the skies, with Lassana Diarra branding the Italians as "cheats and provokers."
Raymond Domenech may have been silenced by a one match ban for falsely accusing Italy of "buying the referee" in a 1999 Under-21 encounter, but that has failed to curb the diatribe ahead of what promises to be a high-pitched encounter between France and Italy at the San Siro.
Domenech has been surprisingly calm since he lost his appeal against the one match touchline ban, insisting: "The matter is closed as far as I am concerned.
"I will be in the stands and have no further comment to make. In England the managers are often in the stands, although I’ll be a bit higher up."
Asked for his view on the storm stirred up by his fellow countryman, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said: "Personally I didn't appreciate it. I believe managers have a form of responsibility to calm things down before matches. I don't think he was right."
However, that was not to be that. Arsenal midfielder Lassana Diarra has now weighed in with his take, and it will most certainly not be music to the Italian ears.
"Everyone knows the reputation the Italians have is of cheats and provokers," he told the Gazzetta dello Sport, holding little back.
"The important thing is not to fall into their traps. I am a black man and in Italy we often get insulted, not just by the fans, but also by the players.
"Having said that, the situation does seem to be improving."
Diarra may well be referring to the incident several years back when Patrick Vieira had a furious row with Lazio’s Sinisa Mihajlovic. The two men have put it behind them now and work together at Inter, where Serb Mihajlovic is now Roberto Mancini’s assistant manager.
"It doesn’t matter if Domenech won’t be on the bench, because he will follow us until the last minute and then his staff knows what to do," added Diarra.
"Italy have Gennaro Gattuso and Andrea Pirlo, but we have Claude Makelele and Vieira. I really don’t think the Azzurri have the stronger pairing."
The final moment of the interview set to raise eyebrows in the peninsula seemed like a self-fulfilling prophecy. "It will be difficult at the San Siro, because the atmosphere will be very tense."
Source: C4 Football Italia