For the fourth time this season, two titans of Calcio convene, as Inter Milan meet holders Juventus in Wednesday’s Coppa Italia final at Stadio Olimpico.
Reprising a decades-old rivalry, the Nerazzurri and Bianconeri will have the eyes of the world on their latest Derby d’Italia, which is only the third ever final between Serie A’s two most successful sides.
While Juve won both previous deciders, the most recent was in 1965, and they have recently been on the wrong end of the result against Inter more often than not.
Some 12 months ago, Federico Chiesa played an instrumental role in the victory over Atalanta that helped Juventus to a record-extending 14th Coppa Italia title; providing some consolation for being usurped by Inter as league champions after nearly a decade of dominance.
Chiesa then went on to taste continental glory with Italy at Euro 2020 a few weeks later, but the winger has since been sidelined by injury as both club and country have faltered; once again, Juve are set to watch on as the Scudetto is lifted later this month.
Sitting fourth in the Serie A standings, Max Allegri’s men have stumbled several times this term, and though their first clash with Inter saw the points shared in October’s 1-1 draw – Paulo Dybala scoring a late equaliser from the spot – their Nerazzurro rivals enjoyed sweet revenge at the start of this year.
On that occasion, the Supercoppa Italiana went the way of Inter, as Alexis Sanchez snatched a stoppage-time winner to deny the Bianconeri an opportunity to try their luck in a penalty shootout.
Allegri has since imposed some authority on an ailing side, which helped them grind their way to 16 domestic games without defeat, but they were once again beaten when Inter travelled to Turin just last month. That reverse forms part of a wider picture, in which Juventus have registered only four draws and two defeats from their Serie A meetings with the other top-four clubs this term.
Having also exited the Champions League to giant-killers Villarreal, Juve are staring at a season without silverware for the first time in a decade if they cannot claim the Coppa on Wednesday, but history suggests that even some patchy form – including Friday’s defeat at lowly Genoa – will not deter them.
After lifting the trophy in four consecutive seasons from 2015-18, the defending champions are specialists in this competition, and following wins over Sampdoria, Sassuolo and Fiorentina in the previous rounds, the Old Lady will grace the final once more.
Though their pursuit of a second successive Scudetto seems set to end in failure, Inter have already lifted one trophy this season, and they will be keen to now add to their Supercoppa success by dashing the hopes of their old foes from Turin.
Indeed, before the Nerazzurri’s title win last year, they had failed to secure a single significant trophy since the Club World Cup back in 2011, which followed hot on the heels of their treble triumph under Jose Mourinho.
As victory in Rome would bring their tally to three in two seasons, current coach Simone Inzaghi will be desperate to prove his credentials in that regard, particularly given his side’s slip-ups in the title race.
Inter had put together an eight-game winning streak before lifting the Supercoppa in early January, at a time when they enjoyed an 11-point lead over Juventus and topped the table ahead of Milan, who they more recently eliminated in the Coppa Italia semi-finals.
Since then, though, they have stumbled towards the finish line and trail their Rossonero rivals by two points in the table, with just two games left to go.
Nevertheless, Inzaghi has been relieved to see his side regain their touch in the final third of late, and having scored in each of their last 10 games – including four goals in their defeat of Empoli on Friday – they arrive in the Eternal City with a certain sense of expectation.
Having gone unbeaten against Juve in both league fixtures for the first time since the 2008-09 campaign, after Hakan Calhanoglu’s re-taken penalty separated the sides last month, the fear factor has undoubtedly subsided, and a first Coppa win for 11 years could be just 90 minutes away.
Inter Milan Coppa Italia form:
Inter Milan form (all competitions):
Juventus Coppa Italia form:
Juventus form (all competitions):
We say: Inter Milan 1-2 Juventus (after extra time)
Although there will be plenty of attacking talent on display at the Olimpico, both coaches can be risk-averse on the big occasion, so this should be a final decided by a one-goal margin.
In fact, the evening could well end in penalties, but reigning Coppa champions Juve may have a late surprise in their armoury; taking vengeance for recent defeats to Inter with victory after 120 minutes of intense combat.