After an eventful few months since they last met in November, old rivals Inter Milan and Juventus contest the 180th Serie A Derby d’Italia on Sunday.
Both sides progressed in Europe this week, but Inter lead Juve by a big margin in the standings following the Old Lady’s points penalty and have held the upper hand in recent meetings.
Though they lost the reverse fixture last Autumn – when Juventus struck twice in the second half to secure victory in Turin – Inter have recently won when it matters in this clash of Calcio titans: after beating them to the title in 2021, they have won both a Supercoppa and last year’s Coppa Italia final against their bitter foes.
The teams will meet again across two legs of their upcoming Coppa semi-final, but first the Nerazzurri aim to kill off Juve’s slim hopes of finishing in the top four while also improving their own credentials in that regard.
Any Scudetto hopes are long gone, as Serie A leaders Napoli hold an 18-point lead at the summit following an eighth league defeat of the season for Simone Inzaghi’s side last time out in the league – on this occasion, away to struggling Spezia.
Milan loanee Daniel Maldini took great delight in putting Inter a goal behind at Stadio Alberto Picco, and though Romelu Lukaku equalised soon after from the spot, they then conceded again to leave themselves clinging on to second spot ahead of Lazio and city rivals Milan.
Even fifth-placed Roma are within three points, as the Nerazzurri’s chronic inconsistency has bitten hard following the winter break. Therefore, victory in the Derby d’Italia would not only provide an immediate uplift but also put them back on the road towards Champions League qualification.
Inter reached the quarter-finals of this year’s competition by holding out for a goalless draw against Porto on Tuesday, to secure a 1-0 aggregate win in their last-16 tie. They will now meet Benfica in the last eight, and Sunday’s visitors know very well the Primeira Liga side’s potential.
Eliminated from the Champions League after failing spectacularly in a group featuring the Lisbon giants – having lost twice to Benfica during the autumn – Juventus were cast down to the second-tier Europa League.
Amid a tumultuous time on and off the pitch, that competition has provided some of Juve’s brightest moments in 2023, and a Dusan Vlahovic penalty set them on the road to success against Bundesliga high-flyers Freiburg in midweek, when a 2-0 win in Germany sent them through to the quarter-finals.
Angel Di Maria’s virtuoso display had helped them past Nantes in the previous round, and the veteran playmaker also netted his side’s winner against Freiburg in Turin.
With Di Maria’s input, Juventus have also found their shooting boots on the domestic scene this year, after a campaign hitherto dominated by 1-0 wins, only Napoli have scored more goals since the winter break. In fact, only Serie A’s champions-elect have posted more victories than the Bianconeri during that time.
Despite Max Allegri’s reputation for safety-first football, they sit fifth in the rankings for shots attempted in 2023 throughout Europe’s top five leagues, including 10 which have hit the woodwork – either a sign of bad luck or just plain inaccuracy.
In addition to the Coppa Italia, Juve’s best route to glory in a crisis-hit season surely lies in the Europa League, but following last week’s 4-2 win over Sampdoria – when they let a two-goal lead slip before rallying in the second half – Allegri’s men sit seventh in Serie A and have not given up on gatecrashing the top four.
With games running out, though, success in Sunday’s Derby d’Italia could be crucial in turning up the heat on their faltering rivals.
Inter Milan Serie A form:
Inter Milan form (all competitions):
Juventus Serie A form:
Juventus form (all competitions):
We say: Inter Milan 2-2 Juventus
Inter have lost three of their last six Serie A matches following Champions League fixtures – including both of their last two – but they have had two days more to recover from their travels than Juventus.
In their final game before the international break, both sides will surely empty the tank in pursuit of Derby d’Italia glory, and there could well be a share of the spoils after an absorbing encounter at San Siro.