Although it’s tough to better the raw passion of a city derby, tussles between rivals from separate regions can occasionally be just as encapsulating. Matches between Inter Milan and Juventus capture the emotion that can be stirred from these clashes perfectly.
Known as the Derby d’Italia, down the years these games have historically carried enormous significance in competition for major honors in the country. Although recently, it’s a game Juventus have dominated, having won five Serie A titles in a row.
The Bianconeri, despite losing midfield linchpin Paul Pogba, remain the major force in Italian football and massive favorites for the title again. With new sharpshooter Gonzalo Higuain leading the line, they’ve coasted to three wins from their opening three games.
While Juve have soared over the past half a decade, Inter have slumped. Frank de Boer is the latest coach to take on the challenge of restoring the Nerazzurri to their former glories, although they’ve got off to an inconsistent beginning to the domestic season, with just four points accrued from their trio of fixtures.
The San Siro, despite it’s place in the aristocracy of European stadia, is rarely at capacity these days, although the visit of Juventus tends to trigger a tremendous atmosphere among the home support. After beating Juve 3-0 in the Coppa Italia in the last meeting between the two sides—Inter lost on penalties, with the score 3-3 on aggregate—there may be a degree of confidence too.
For Juve, this is a chance to tick off one of the season’s most testing fixtures early on and build confidence towards a remarkable sixth Scudetto in succession. They’ll be the big favorites here in what is one of Italian football’s most fascinating spectacles.
Date: Sunday, September 18
Time: 5pm (BST), Noon (ET), 6 pm (Local)
TV Info: BT Sport 2 (U.K.), beIN Sports USA (U.S.)
Streaming Info: Live on fuboTV (free trial)
After Roberto Mancini’s second spell at Inter predictably came to an end in a manner similar to his first stint, it’s De Boer who faces the difficult challenge of chopping down the gap from Inter to Juventus.
Naturally, it’s a process that’ll take time for a manager not accustomed to working in Italy and the minutiae of Serie A. But on a landscape where owners are unforgiving and at a club such as Inter where ambitions remain high, there are a lot of early expectations being placed on De Boer.
Steering the team to their first league win last time out would have been a major relief for the the Dutchman, although the performance was far from convincing. A Mauro Icardi double overturned Pescara’s 1-0 advantage, with his second goal coming after a terrible error from Norbert Gyomber.
Despite failing to fully attune to De Boer’s methods in the opening weeks of the season, there were some positives to take from the scare against the newly-promoted outfit. Icardi, for one, has begun the season in razor sharp form, while the composure of Ever Banega has added a guile in midfield that was scarce under Mancini.
The clash with Juventus will be a major step up in quality and as such, extremely difficult for De Boer’s methods, based on expansive play and sharp passing, to shine through. To stand any chance of taking something from this contest, the Nerazzurri must adopt a more cohesive, robust approach.
Juventus certainly aren’t unbeatable and Inter have the individual talent to cause any side problems. Nevertheless, with De Boer’s ethos not yet entrenched, you sense the San Siro crowd would be delighted to smuggle a point from this encounter.
Losing the most expensive player in the history of football doesn’t look to have flustered Juventus too much, as they’ve settled into a promising early groove in Serie A.
Key players departed last summer in Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Carlos Tevez and although the Turin giants eventually recovered to coast to the championship, they endured a very difficult start to the season. The early signs are that manager Massimiliano Allegri has been able to fill the hole left by the departed Paul Pogba.
Having Higuain certainly helps. Last season he netted a whopping 36 goals for Napoli in just 35 league games and it seems as though the Argentine has preserved his golden touch following his big money move to Juve, bagging three goals in just 119 minutes of domestic football for his new club.
Other players have caught the eye early in the campaign too, most notably Paulo Dybala, who is abuzz with vibrancy and incision up top, and Mario Lemina, who has done an understated job at the base of midfield. Dani Alves and Mehdi Benatia, both summer acquisitions, have also impressed in their early outings in the Bianconeri colors.
Such is the variety and quality available to Allegri, it’ll be fascinating to see what kind of side he fields against Inter. There were signs of a burgeoning partnership between Higuain and Dybala when Juve coasted to a 3-1 win over Sassuolo last time out, while Benatia has arguably done enough to usurp one of Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini or Andrea Barzagli in the revered back three.
Either way, the XI put out on the day at the San Siro will be packed full of experience, class, power and ingenuity. Four wins from four would send out a resounding message to the rest of the division that this side has lost none of its appetite for winning titles and dominating the domestic scene.
Key Battle – Mauro Icardi vs. Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli
After a summer of speculation, Icardi remains an Inter player, is still the club captain and has led by example in the opening weeks of the season. This contest, up against arguably the strongest defense in European football, will be a major test for him.
With three goals in three games, Icardi evidently knows where the back of the net is and has a swagger in front of goal. But against this opposition the 23-year-old, likely to lead the line on his own, will need to show more than predatory instincts to give his side a foothold in the contest.
Playing as a sole striker agains this defense is tough, although when the ball comes forward to Icardi, it’s imperative it sticks and with runners getting close to him that he picks the right pass. If he can provide an outlet, unsettle the centre-backs and offer a release from pressure, Inter can build momentum.
By contrast, should the experienced trio nullify the threat posed by the Nerazzurri skipper, they can push forward and smother Inter with their classy midfield men and zesty attacking strikeforce. Should that scenario manifest, it’s tough to see anything other than a comprehensive away win for the champions.
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