In what is likely the biggest match remaining for Inter in the 2016/17 season, the Nerazzurri travel to Turin to face Juventus in the Derby D’Italia this weekend.
Ahead of Sunday’s match, I interviewed Black & White & Read All Over’s Danny Penza to get a better sense of the Juventus team Inter are facing. We discussed the season thus far, Juve’s recent formation switch, the club’s new logo, and his prediction for Sunday.
As always, a massive thank you to Danny for taking the time to share his Juventus perspective with a community of Interisti.
Serpents of Madonnina: For the benefit of those that haven’t been following Juventus closely, how you would you describe the season so far?
Black & White & Read All Over: One merely looks at the Serie A table and thinks its been smooth sailing pretty much most of the way. At least I would expect them to think that. In all actuality, a way to describe Juventus' season thus far has been ... interesting. In recent weeks, I've described Juve's form as somewhat like a car with transmission issues — start-stop, start-stop. It was a vicious cycle that pass through three or four times over. They would start to look like they might be snapping out of it and then they would suffer a loss. Another couple of games and then another loss or setback. Repeat, repeat. That was until the new year when, as we'll talk about later, Max Allegri decided to change things up with his formation and now things are looking much, much brighter than they were the last time these two teams played against one another.
SoM: Juve are once again leading the pack in Serie A, are through to the semifinals of the Coppa Italia, and onto the knockout stage of the Champions League. From the outside looking in, it seems to be business as usual. Have there been any areas of concern for the club?
BWRAO: Yeah, like how they've played up until the last couple of weeks. Don't let the wins fool you — Juventus weren't playing all that well the first half of the season. Maybe it's because when you add a Miralem Pjanic and Gonzalo Higuain to an already incredibly talented squad the expectations are going to be blown completely out of the building. But things seem to be finally settling into place a little bit. It took four and a half months, but it's there. Thank goodness.
SoM: I’m sorry if this is a sore subject, but we need to ask about the new logo. What are your thoughts on the crest Juve unveiled and will begin wearing next season?
BWRAO: At first I was really against it. Like fuming mad at work and a not-able-to-be-productive kind of upset about it. You see, as a creature of habit, I despise change — especially when it involves some of my most favorite and recognizable things in this world. That involves the Juventus crest. (Shocker, I know.) But the more I see the new logo on mock-ups of jerseys and other things, it's getting a little more tolerable. That's not to say that I'm going to be totally okay with it in the next week or two, but I think over time people will start to get used to seeing it. This is new at a club that's built on tradition spanning over almost 120 years, so I think it's a little understandable if we are a little slow to warm up to this most recent (major) change.
SoM: The last time these clubs met, Inter defeated Juventus 2-1 at the San Siro. From your perspective does the loss add any pressure to Sunday’s match? Surely Inter ending your 27-home league match-winning streak, even in a draw, would be a nightmare scenario.
BWRAO: The home winning streak is certainly a big deal, but I think the fact that Juventus aren't the inconsistent life form they were the first four months of the season makes me feel a little less pressurized. (If that makes sense.) If you were to ask me to pick which Juventus team I would prefer, the one that played Inter at the beginning of the season or the one that enters this Sunday's game, it's an easy pick. Juventus aren't the inconsistent wreck they were in the first half of the season. So as much as playing an in-form Inter side might be worrisome, the fact that Juve are playing some of their best ball of the season is pretty reassuring.
SoM: In the past two league matches, Juve have lined-up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. What prompted the switch of formations, how has the team adjusted, and which players does the new formation impact the most?
BWRAO: What prompted the switch was Allegri coming to the realization that playing attack-minded football isn't the worst thing in the world. Or that's what I want to believe. The club needed a kick-start and I think changing the formation was the quickest way to do so. You bring on somebody like Juan Cuadrado who thrives on energy, push Gonzalo Higuain higher up the field and give Paulo Dybala a free-roaming role and — poof! All good! It's pretty fun to watch this team attack with all the options they have in the opponent's half of the field these days. Allegri's choice to go 4-2-3-1 has proven to be for the good — and that's good.
SoM: How do you expect Juve to line-up against Inter on Sunday?
BWRAO: I would think it's the "rinse and repeat" kind of deal that Allegri has done the last few weeks. The only real question about the starting lineup is if Claudio Marchisio will be in the starting lineup. Seeing how well the 4-2-3-1 has been working with Sami Khedira and Miralem Pjanic as the '2,' I don't know if Allegri would change things up. But at the same time, Marchisio has proven to be so damn important no matter what formation has been used the last two seasons. I don't envy Allegri when it comes to making this decision, that's for sure.
SoM: Lastly, could you give us a prediction for Sunday’s match?
BWRAO: Juventus are at home. I like when Juventus are at home. I'll say Juve 2-1 in an absolute 12-round kind of battle.
Thanks again to Danny for participating. While we certainly hope his prediction doesn’t become true, here’s to an exciting, injury-free Derby D’Italia.
I answered a few questions for BWRAO, which you can read here.