Juventus v Inter Milan Preview
Juventus Stadium, Turin
by Jerrad Peters (@peterssoccer)
MATCH IN A SENTENCE: With Napoli having lost to Atalanta on Wednesday, Inter Milan find themselves second in the table (thanks to an eight-game winning streak) ahead of Saturday’s showdown with Scudetto holders Juventus, who with a win or a draw will extend their Serie A unbeaten run to an incredible 50 matches.
BREAKDOWN: When Gianni Brera coined the term “Derby d’Italia” in the mid-1960s, Helenio Herrera’s Grande Inter were the dominant team on the continent while Juventus, already with 12 titles in their history, were about to embark on a glorious era that would see the club claim another six championships by 1978.
It’s not quite the same scenario as the two giants of Italian football prepare for their latest encounter, but with Serie A leaders Juventus followed closely in the table by second-place Inter, Brera—the pudgy, pipe-smoking former dean of Italian football writing—would no doubt recognise both the magnitude and tension of the occasion.
Juventus, by virtue of their 49-match unbeaten streak, are atop the table heading into Saturday with 28 points from 10 rounds. They lead Serie A in goals for and against, and according to midfielder Emanuele Giaccherini they play the best football in the division as well.
“We’re the team that plays the best football in Italy and it’s also a winning formula,” the 27-year-old told Juventus.com. “We’ve won nine and drawn one out of 10 Serie A games. It’s a great run and I really enjoy playing here.”
About Juve’s 2-1 win at home to Bologna, midweek, in which Paul Pogba won the match with a last-gasp header, Giaccherini said, “We deserved the victory and we’re happy it came...We started strongly from the off and fought for every ball. They only had one shot on goal.”
Inter, meanwhile, overturned an early deficit against Sampdoria in their Wednesday match and emerged with a well-deserved 3-2 victory. The win was their eighth in succession—one better than Herrera’s side was able to achieve while they were winning back-to-back European Cups in the ‘60s. They’re now second in the standings and could pull to within a point of Juventus with a win on Saturday.
“Now let’s think about Juve,” remarked Inter midfielder Fredy Guarin on Wednesday night. “We’re slowly getting to where coach Andrea Stramaccioni wants us to be by working hard and winning games. Now we can focus on the Bianconeri, and we’ll fight to win that match.”
ESSENTIALS: Juventus welcome Arturo Vidal back from suspension although midfielder Claudio Marchisio remains doubtful with a shoulder injury. Pogba, as a result, is likely to keep his place in the starting XI for a third successive match.
Inter Milan’s casualty list is significantly longer, with defender Christian Chivu sidelined along with midfielders Dejan Stankovic, Macdonald Mariga, Joel Obi, Philippe Coutinho and Wesley Sneijder. Defender Juan Jesus returns from suspension and will re-take his position in Stramaccioni’s back three.
Juventus defender Andrea Barzagli revealed his admiration of Inter striker Diego Milito this week, telling Sky Italia that the Argentine is “a complete striker—one of the strongest in Europe.” About Inter as a whole the Italy international remarked, “Inter are a worthy threat. Andrea Stramaccioni is a good coach and I think it’s right that a young coach with good ideas is getting a chance.”
Stramaccioni, for his part, is delighted with his side’s current run of form. In his post-match press conference following the win over Bologna he said he was seeing a “hunger” in his players that he admired. “We need to continue to work this hard in every game,” he said.
KEY BATTLES: Juventus winger Kwadwo Asamoah was rested on Wednesday—a likely indication that he’ll draw a starting assignment against Inter Milan. The 23-year-old Ghana international has been a vital line of supply to the Juventus strikers so far this season and will find himself up against Nerazzurri winger Javier Zanetti much of the night.
Much of Inter’s creativity will come from Antonio Cassano, who will be operating in the hole just behind Rodrigo Palacio and Diego Milito. Vidal will likely keep an eye on him over the 90 minutes.
FORMATIONS: Juventus assistant manager Angelo Alessio will stick with his 3-5-2 formation with Mirko Vucinic and Alessandro Matri likely to fill the attacking places. Stramaccioni will deploy a 3-4-1-2 with Alvaro Pereira and Zanetti out wide and Cassano working as a trequartista in the Sneijder role.
BETLINE: Juventus 4/6; Draw 5/2; Inter Milan 9/2. Juventus won both Serie A matches against Inter last season and defeated the Nerazzurri 2-0 on this ground in March.