The title credentials of two Italian heavyweights will be examined on Sunday as Juventus travel to San Siro for a crucial clash with Serie A leaders Inter. The Nerazzurri’s first defeat of the season came at the hands of Barcelona on Wednesday courtesy of a Luis Suarez double, though they are yet to drop points in Serie A after the first six rounds of action.
This particular Derby d’Italia might be even more intense as first place is up for grabs, with the teams separated by just two points going into the game. The history between the two clubs dates back to the ’60s, and the match up became even more heated after Calciopoli which saw Juventus stripped of their league title from 2005-06 and given to Inter.
One of the most intriguing sub-plots in this Serie A season is shaping up to be which former Chelsea boss fares the best in their new role – Antonio Conte or Maurizio Sarri.
Both have impressed so far, but the praise which has been given to Conte from within the Inter dressing room speaks volumes ahead of this meeting with his Stamford Bridge successor.
It is easy to see why Conte is so highly regarded right now too; Inter still boast a 100% record in the league this season, conceding just twice in their six matches to set the early Serie A pace (via Skysports).
Inter have already beaten city rivals AC Milan and Lazio this season, but Sunday’s match will undoubtedly be their toughest of the Serie A campaign so far against a Juventus side who offer no signs of giving up their crown easily.
In the build-up to the start of the week, many already had their minds on the Juventus clash with one eye especially on Inter’s clash against Barcelona – one which was supposed to be the yardstick for Inter’s “genuine” credibility so far. Not surprisingly, Inter lost and the notion is that similar fate awaits the Nerrazzuri against the Bianconeri come Sunday. Displaying a good performance but losing out to a more “experienced” side in the end.
What if the loss to Barcelona could actually be one to play positively in the hands of Inter and Conte. Juventus are no doubt brimming with confidence after their 3-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday but the loss suffered by Inter doesn’t necessarily mean bad news. Actually, it could be the catalyst that fuels Inter to take the first major blow in breaking the eight-year dominance Juventus have had over the Serie A.
How the defeat to Barcelona could play well into Inter’s hands
If Barcelona and their fans were expecting an easy stroll against Conte’s men, the opposite is what they got at the much respected Camp Nou stadium. Two minutes in and Inter were up through Lautaro Martinez. The hosts continued to struggle the latter of the first half and for a moment there it looked like Inter were going to do the “impossible” up until the usual brilliance of Suarez and Messi happened.
Despite the venue of the intense showdown on Sunday being at the San Siro, Juventus remain clear favourites for the fixture and the fact that Inter lost prior to the clash will have Juventus thinking Inter were only “flexing” their talents early on.
It’s interesting to note that the 2-0 win against SPAL last weekend was Juventus first win above a one-goal margin. So to chalk up another in such quick succession against Leverkusen during the week would have the Bianconeri thinking the attacking aspect of the manager’s plan is starting to bear fruit. Coupled with the fact that Sarri’s men kept successive clean sheets as well, there would be some sort of over-confidence going into the Inter game. One that could be an advantage for Conte.
On the other hand, Inter are currently wounded lions looking to reaffirm their credentials for a title chase when they take on Juventus on Sunday. Inter won’t be labelled “disappointing” if they do lose to the current champions but a defeat for Juventus will see them five points behind and with a massive loss of confidence. That lack of pressure for Inter could play well for Inter against a Juve side that must win the clash “at all costs”. That nerviness could well be the cause of their downfall.
Of course, the win for Barcelona and Messi’s brilliance outshined the fact that Romelu Lukaku wasn’t available for the fixture and a return for the Belgian could not come at a better time than against the Serie A champions. As per Calciomercato, via Sky Sport Italia, Lukaku is expected to recover from the muscle problem which ensured he was ruled out against Barcelona in the Champions League in midweek.
Lukaku’s physical presence and clinical finishing in the box will be a serious threat that Leonardo Bonucci and Matthijs de Ligt have to find a way to deal with, and it certainly adds a different dynamic to the Inter attack as they look to bounce back from their disappointing defeat at Barcelona in midweek.
From a psychological perspective, the last time Inter finished higher than fourth was in the 2010-11 season. A time since when Juventus have won every single league title, but the early signs suggest that the class of 2019-20 may offer the most serious threat to Juve’s dominance yet. The newfound reason to smile will leave the crowds in lively spirits and the home dominance and support will be extra motivation to the Nerrazzurri as well.
The winning know-how of this Juventus squad can also not be underestimated. Inter are by no means the first to challenge their recent dominance, but they could be the most serious threat to a team that has grown accustomed to silverware.
The odds are currently in the Bianconeri’s favour but recent results and happenings could spur Inter to get what could be a famous victory and would give them a stronghold as “major” contenders for the Serie A this season.