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Juventus vs Inter: SoM staff preview

It’s almost time...

Juventus FC v FC Internazionale - Serie A Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Just as we did for the Milan derby back in October, some of the staff here at Serpents of Madonnina have come together to pool their thoughts ahead of Saturday’s Derby d’Italia. Because big games deserve big billings, and Juventus vs Inter this weekend most certainly is one of those.

Is this match really the Scudetto shootout that some sections of the press have been advertising it as? Why should we be confident that Luciano Spalletti’s men can pull off a victory at the Allianz Stadium? What will be the key to success on Saturday evening?

Find out what we have to say about those issues and more in our wild and (hopefully) wonderful community round-table preview below.

Just one more thing before we get started - FORZA INTER!

The vast majority of the Italian press are presenting Saturday’s big match as a Scudetto showdown. Is that a fair portrayal of this game or just typical media hype?

FC Internazionale v AC Chievo Verona - Serie A
Inter could not be in better shape heading into this weekend’s match with Juventus.
Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Will: Given that Inter are top of the league heading into this match (that feels cool to say doesn’t it?), it was inevitable that people would get carried away with Scudetto talk - and if you want that’s kind of their job. But I’m in agreement with both Spalletti and Milan Skriniar when they were asked this question last weekend: this is an important game, albeit worth three points like all the others, and nothing more.

If we were to beat Juventus on their own patch, or perhaps get a draw while playing very well, then at that point it really would become difficult to continue playing down our title chances, but for now I remain cautious on the matter. Despite our brilliant recent form I still think Juve and Napoli are superior to us, and you could even say Roma are slightly ahead of us too. Our target for the season is Champions League qualification and nothing that happens between now and May will change that - although if we really did come home with three points this weekend...

Tim: Listen, I work in public relations. So, I can certainly appreciate an attempt by the media to promote their content with an eye to attracting as many viewers as possible, but let’s not kid ourselves here. This match has very few Scudetto implications... Is the Derby d'Italia a huge fixture? Yes. Talent and form-wise are Inter closer to Juventus than they have been in a long time? Yes. But the outcome on Saturday isn’t likely to have a big impact on who lifts the trophy in May. It’s only early December, after all. The Scudetto isn’t won 16 games into the season.

Now, that said, there’s no doubt in my mind that this is an important game, and one that, if won by Inter, would be a tremendous confidence boost for the club and supporters alike. But, there’s still so much football to be played over the next five months.

FC Internazionale v AC Chievo Verona - Serie A
Milan Skriniar has said that Juventus vs Inter is not a Scudetto showdown, and all four of us are in agreement. We always agree with anything Milan Skriniar says or does.
Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Sanat: At this stage in the same with the number of games still to go, it is too early to call this a Scudetto showdown. There is just far too much football left to be played after this one. Even if Inter beats Juve, they could draw/lose against Udinese and Sassuolo to make this result somewhat meaningless. However, the reverse fixture at the end of April could well be a Scudetto showdown if Inter and the Juve find themselves in a similar position.

Having said that, this game does present an excellent measuring stick - one that Spalletti and the team can use to compare themselves to the standard bearers are far as recent Serie A success goes. This team did very well and held their own against then league leaders Napoli, and it Saturday's game, more than anything, will tell us how far this team has come.

Matt: I think we need to temper Scudetto talk. It is WAY too early in the season to consider this a championship match. Granted, you have two of the most storied programs in Serie A facing off at a time when both are either at, or near, the top of the table, which is extremely exciting. However, we still have five more months of football and anything can happen.

While this game should be exciting to watch, it will be the return fixture in April that could prove to be the true Scudetto matchup.

What makes you optimistic heading into this match?

Will: My biggest source of optimism 24 hours ahead of kick-off is the timing of this match. I don’t think anyone could deny that Juventus remain the superior team in absolute terms at the moment, but Saturday’s game arrives at the best moment possible for Inter and this should give us a decent chance of getting a result. Andrea Stramaccioni was asked earlier this week if he could see any similarities between this Inter side and the Inter side he guided to victory at the Juventus Stadium back in 2012, and he said the biggest similarity was the enthusiasm behind both teams on the eve of the game. “We arrived at that match in a great run of form [eight straight wins in all competitions], and anyone who knows what life is like at Inter knows this gives you a big advantage. The greatest analogy between now and then is the enthusiasm which enables you to approach this match with peace of mind.”

Whichever way you look at it – physically, mentally or in terms of the league table – Inter are in their richest vein of form in at least two years (and perhaps even longer, depending on how you view what happened with Roberto Mancini two seasons ago), and that will enable us to play this match with calmness and confidence in equal measure. Let’s hope that’s enough to make the difference.

Tim: I’m optimistic because Inter have responded to each and every challenge they’ve faced this season.

Winning on the road against AS Roma in Spalletti’s first games back at the Stadio Olimpico? Check. Winning a hotly-contested derby match against a seemingly desperate AC Milan side? Check. Thoroughly dominating a match that would send the club top of the table for the first time since January 2016? Check.

FC Internazionale v AC Chievo Verona - Serie A
Luciano Spalletti has turned Inter into a formidable outfit this season, in spite of a low-key summer transfer campaign.
Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Be it Spalletti’s leadership, the newfound resilience of Inter’s players, or a magical combination of the two, there’s no denying that the Nerazzurri have risen to the occasion at every opportunity they’ve faced. Inter have been proving me wrong all season long, so what reason should I have to doubt them now?

Sanat: Two reasons - The first is recent performances and not just three points. Inter have already shown this season that they can grind out results when they are not playing well (examples being games against Crotone, Benevento and Genoa). However, in recent games the performances have caught up with our positive results. A team that's full of confidence and playing well always has a chance in a big match. The second reason is our performance against Napoli - we showed the ability to soak up pressure and hold our own against a very credible team and no reason why we cannot do that again.

Matt: My optimism rests with one person ... Luciano Spalletti. He has been the best pickup by the club in the summer transfer season. He has instilled a new sense of pride and even urgency with the club. That is something that was lacking in the last few seasons.

The team has responded to his call with extremely impressive results. We talked about the disappointment some of us had because Inter had not made that splash signing in the summer. These results prove that you don’t need to drop copious amounts of cash to be successful.

What makes you pessimistic heading into this match?

Will: Juventus’s big game experience. I have complete faith in this Inter side’s ability to go to Turin and hold their own with a solid performance, but more often than not that isn’t enough to get the better of this team, because they are the masters when it comes to head-to-head clashes like this. Gianluigi Buffon said after the Bianconeri’s victory last week against Napoli that ‘when it comes to the moment where you have to give something extra, we always manage to do it’, and he’s right, so I just can’t shake that nagging feeling that they’re going to edge us out. Their experience, knowhow and mental resilience in decisive matches is superior to ours and that could be enough to secure the three points for them on Saturday.

Tim: The fact that Leonardo Bonucci is no longer with Juventus, resulting the lack of a “world-class” center back for Mauro Icardi to humiliate…

Juventus FC v FC Internazionale - Serie A
Juventus ran out winners in last season’s fixture at the Allianz Stadium. Can Inter stop the Bianconeri this time round?
Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

No, on a more-serious note, this is Juventus we’re playing. In their building. Since the J, Allianz, or whatever-we’re-supposed-to-call-it-now Stadium opened in 2011, Inter have only managed a win and a draw in the seven matches played there. While Juve’s home winning streak may be over, the Old Lady is still one of the best home teams in the world. As well as Inter have played this season, Juve are still the better side, if we’re being objective. This game is going to be extremely difficult for Inter, and admitting that is likely more a case of realism than pessimism.

Sanat: Juve is a little bit like a wounded animal right now and Inter presents them the perfect opportunity to show everyone in Serie A that they are still kings. I can expect them to raise their game for this one just to prove that point and that might be problematic for us.

Matt: I have to agree with Tim on this one. There is a lot to be said about home field advantage in Serie A. Juventus may be tired after Wednesday’s Champions League win and playing a bit on their back heel, but you can never underestimate the power of the 12th man and the Allianz Stadium will be rocking Saturday.

What’s the one thing that Inter must do or get right in order to beat Juventus this weekend?

Will: Be courageous. Spalletti said it himself during his press conference on Friday afternoon: ‘I could sense enormous satisfaction around the club after the draw against Napoli in October, so I spoke with the team immediately and reminded them it was a good result and nothing more. We could have been more daring that night, so I hope we are tomorrow.’ This doesn’t mean we have to keep hold of the ball for 90 minutes and throw countless men forward every time we attack; it just means we shouldn’t always wait for Juve to make the first move.

Take a risk occasionally, take the initiative when it’s right to do so – do what D’Ambrosio did to set up Icardi’s second goal against Atalanta, when he abandoned the man he was marking on the halfway line to sprint forward and nick the ball higher up the pitch. Otherwise we’ll spend the entire game covering off space inside our own half, which at most will earn us a 0-0 draw. And Inter wasn’t founded to chase 0-0 draws.

Tim: Win the right side of the pitch.

For reasons unbeknownst to me, Allegri has chosen to play Kwadwo Asamoah in many of Juventus’ big league matches this season. If the Ghanaian starts over Alex Sandro on Saturday, I think there’s a real opportunity for Antonio Candreva to shine. Along with Icardi, Candreva was a huge difference-maker for Inter in the Milan Derby, and the Italian winger always seems to be up for the big matches.

FC Internazionale v AC Chievo Verona - Serie A
Could Ivan Perisic’s endless energy reserves prove decisive in the latter stages of the game?
Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Few ties in Italian football are bigger than the Derby d’Italia, so I expect to see the best version of Candreva on Saturday. If he can play well, and D'Ambrosio does enough to neutralize Mario Mandzukic/Douglas Costa, I think there will be a real outlet for Inter on the right-wing. If that’s the case, the Nerazzurri are one good cross and an Icardi finish away from snatching the lead.

Sanat: Be sure to turn on the "after-burners" in the final 20 minutes to make the extra midweek game for Juve count for something.

Matt: Dictate tempo. We need to come out of the gate with a little fire. If we don’t, Juventus can capitalize and a 1-0 early lead in Turin is a lot harder to overcome than a 1-0 lead somewhere else. The Nerazzurri also have to press the attack. Perisic, Icardi and Candreva have a good opportunity to keep the pressure on Juventus’ defense. Couple that with solid midfield play and control could also create a lot of havoc for the Old Lady.

What’s your favourite Derby d’Italia memory (preferably from an away game seeing as this one is in Turin)?

Will: Without doubt it has to be the 3-1 win at the Juventus Stadium in November 2012, under Andrea Stramaccioni. There’s surely not much in life that could ever beat what happened on that night: Inter ending Juventus’ 49-game unbeaten run, on their own patch, with a come-from-behind victory, including two goals from Diego Milito, after conceding a blatantly offside goal in the first minute. Footballing heaven.

Juventus FC v FC Internazionale Milano - Serie A
What a night that was back in 2012...
Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

For some reason I’m also attached to the 1-1 draw we played out in January 2015, on the night when Dani Osvaldo punched Roberto Mancini in the dressing room at full-time (he confirmed this a week ago). But the Strama win definitely takes top spot.

Tim: I know this is super recent, but I have to go with last year’s win at the San Siro. After looking pretty horrendous in our first three matches of the Frank de Boer era, the 2-1 win was as shocking as it was enjoyable. It was the first, and perhaps only :(, time Inter looked like a real team under de Boer, and the win could’ve been the moment that jumpstarted our season. Unfortunately, that never happened, but it was still a great victory… And hey, if Ivan Perisic thinks that winner was the greatest goal he’s scored for Inter, who are we to disagree?

Sanat: I am with Will on this one - the 3-1 win to end Juve's 49-game unbeaten run and their first defeat in the new stadium. How very pleasing that it had to be Inter to do that!

Matt: Not to be a bandwagoner, but Will nailed this one right on the head. The 2012 road win was spectacular, especially the manner of which it happened.

(There is only one happy away memory in recent years, in fairness...)

Last but not least, a quick prediction for the big match...

Will: 1-0 to Juventus. By no means am I pessimistic about our chances of getting a result, but I think the most likely outcome remains a narrow home win. Very rarely do Juventus mess these big games up, particularly at home.

FC Internazionale v AC Chievo Verona - Serie A
Forza ragazzi! Bring home the win for us!
Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Tim: Ugh. I hate to say it, but I do think Juventus will win this match. They enter Saturday’s Derby d’Italia trailing Inter in the league table for the first time in a quite a while. As a result, I expect Juve to be motivated and ready for this one. I can see them scoring in the first half, forcing Inter to throw caution to the wind in search of an equalizer, and sealing all three points with a late goal. My prediction is 2-0 Juve, but as I mentioned above and earlier this week, Inter have made me eat my words this season. Here’s hoping they prove me wrong once again on Saturday!

Sanat: Juve 2-1 Inter. Strangely, I think a draw or defeat may not be the worst thing in the world at this stage of the season. It will heap less pressure on Inter and perhaps let Juve do some of the running for a few weeks.

Matt: I really want to see Inter take a 2-0 win here. I think they are completely capable of doing it, but I’m just not sure that happens. We have had a great run and I would love to see it continue. However, my optimism runs out there. In the end, I see a 1-1 draw, which would be a good point pick-up in my opinion. That said, Sanat is right in that if the Nerazzurri do take a loss in Turin, it is certainly not the end of the world as it is better to take a loss now than in about four months when we are staring European football right in the face.

Are you feeling optimistic or pessimistic ahead of this weekend’s game? What will be the decisive factor at the Allianz Stadium? Do you have other unforgettable Derby d’Italia memories to share? Let us know in the comments section below.

One more time, just for luck - Forza Inter!