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Inter Milan vs. Juventus Preview: And now the fun begins

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The first Derby d'Italia gives Mancini a chance to see if the result against Fiorentina was just a fluke and that Inter can play with the big boys again.

Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Match Facts:

Date: Sunday, October 18, 2015

Time: 2:45pm ET/ 20:45 CET

Venue: Stadio Giuseppe Meazza; Milan, Italy

What a match to welcome the return of Serie A after that international break. Sunday sees heated rivals Juventus travel to the San Siro to take on Inter. I could go on and on about how this matchup represents all that is good and sacred in the world taking on its polar opposite, but we already know that. Every time this fixture is played the intensity is turned up several degrees, both by the players and the fans even though in the past few seasons it hasn't had much of an impact on the table. This time however there is a feeling that this match truly matters not just for the two clubs, but for the entirety of Serie A.

Thanks to Inter's high flying start some pundits began to include Mancini's men in the conversation for the Scudetto. A thrashing at the hands of Fiorentina put some of those talks on hold however. While Mancini was simply aiming for a return to the Champions League next season he will want his side to be able to take on the other big teams in the league. A win against Milan in the Derby della Madonnina was nice, but to be able to claim the scalp of Juventus would help reaffirm the claims that Inter are really back this season, while also putting an 11 point gap between the Nerazzurri and the reigning champions.

Juventus also started the season at a pace that surprised most of the league, though not in a way the Bianconeri would have hoped. They already have as many losses this season as they did in the entirety of the previous campaign, and some have already started to write the side out of the title race. But a number of their injured players have begun to return, and securing two wins in a row in all competitions before the international break are helping fuel whispers that the old lady might be waking from her sleep.

Mancini will have nearly a full squad at his disposal for this match. The M&M defensive partnership will finally be available, and while Medel impressed filling in at the back, I see no reason why Miranda and Murillo would not start the game. JJ will also be back to fight with Telles for a spot at fullback, and it looks like JJ's defensive stability will edge out the new arrival for the starting position. With Medel out of the back 4 the question will become if he starts in the midfield and if so, who does he replace? The obvious choice would be Melo but given his stellar performances so far, Mancini might be hard-pressed to keep him in and sacrifice one of Kondobgia (who has so far not lived up to his pricetag but is really looking forward to battle his compatriot Pogba) or Guarin instead (who hasn't be playing very well but does offer a little more going forward). Up top Jovetic will return to partner Icardi who I'm sure is the player the most looking forward to taking on Juventus due to his great goal scoring record against them. Perisic had some strong international performances to stake his claim to complete the trio.  Ljajic also had a good international break but was not called up due to an injury upon his return to Inter.

Regardless of if this current Juventus side is a shadow of its former self, in the Derby d'Italia form makes absolutely no difference. Both teams will let the passion flow through them and give their all for a victory. One of the players who will most embody that passion is Melo, who spoke to the press about how much he wants a win and how he felt like his time at Juve was a mistake (we don't disagree with you there).  Hopefully he will help inspire the rest of the players to give the fans something to cheer about on Sunday, preferably by walking away with all three points.

Projected XI's

Inter: Handanovic; Juan Jesus, Miranda, Murillo, Santon; Melo, Medel, Guarin; Perisic, Jovetic, Icardi

Juventus: Buffon; Chiellini, Bonucci, Barzagli; Evra, Pogba, Marchisio, Khedira, Cuadrado; Dybala, Morata