Fresh off a 120-minute sludge midweek against Fiorentina, Antonio Conte named his strongest starting eleven, with all of the usual suspects getting the start plus Ashley Young and Arturo Vidal over Ivan Perisic and Roberto Gagliardini, respectively. For Juventus, Paulo Dybala, Matthijs de Ligt, Alex Sandro, and Juan Cuadrado were out injured. Rodrigo Bentancur and Adrien Rabiot lined up in the middle, while Cristiano Ronaldo and Alvaro Morata headlined the bianconeri attack.
The derby kicked off under a barrage of fireworks from the Curva Nord outside the stadium, which impressively lasted around five minutes. It was Juve which put the ball in the back of the net thanks to Ronaldo in the 11th minute, but rightfully so it was disallowed for offsides. The deadlock broke just a minute later, though, as Vidal notched his first Serie A goal in Nerazzurri colors.
Inter 1-0 Juventus (Arturo Vidal) pic.twitter.com/kkc0GWeeRi— InterVids (@VidsInter) January 17, 2021
Inter almost doubled its lead in the 23rd minute. A Romelu Lukaku effort from outside the box was parried away by Wojciech Szczęsny but the bouncing rebound was skied by Lautaro Martinez from close range. The home side continued to have the best of the chances, outshooting Juventus 11 (4 on target) to 3 (2 on target), even as Inter had only 43% of the ball.
The Nerazzurri finally got a second after the break via a picture-perfect Barella/Bastoni combination in the 52nd minute.
Inter stayed in the ascendancy after the goal, and had a smattering of chances to make it 3-0. It couldn’t convert, and Juve began to pile numbers forward as the match wore on. The bianconeri never looked sure of itself, though, and lacked any sort of plan in the final third. Handanovic was forced into one big save on a Federico Chiesa shot, but other than that his goal was untroubled and Inter picked up a memorable three points.
I don’t know about you, but that win sure felt nice (Inter’s first against Juve since 2016, by the way). The margin of victory should have even been more to fully represent the strength of Inter’s performance. Inter totaled 17 shots to Juve’s 9, but the expected goals were even more one-sided. Inter had 1.73xg and limited Juve to a mere 0.37xg. Furthermore, unlike other games against big teams (Lazio, Atalanta, Roma) Inter held on to its lead comfortably, more or less. Conte’s subs weren’t too defensive and the Nerazzurri didn’t retreat too far into a shell as we saw against Roma. In fact, this was the best Inter game in recent memory. And seeing the nine-straight champions of Italy so clearly second-best and without a plan of action is a rare sight indeed. A significant part of that was Inter’s midfield control over the game. On the left is the combined heatmap of Vidal, Barella, and Brozovic. On the right is Adrien Rabiot and Rodrigo Bentancur.
Inter’s three-man midfield gave it a clear advantage in the center of the park over Andrea Pirlo’s 4-4-2. Neither Rabiot nor Bentancur could imprint themselves on the game, while Inter’s trio of Vidal/Brozovic/Barella all put in hefty shifts. Weston McKennie’s physicality made a noticeable impact when he was subbed on, but by then it was too late. It was an issue of both personnel and tactics, and Inter’s midfield took complete advantage.
Handanovic - 7: Wasn’t called into action very often, but when he was, he came to the call. Made two complex saves, first on a deflected Rabiot shot early on, and a superb reflex stop on Chiesa as the game wound down.
Bastoni - 8.5 (Man of the Match: Part 1): Hasn’t been his best lately and now we know why. He was saving it up for a masterclass of a performance in the derby. He kept Ronaldo in his pocket the entire ninety minutes, made 6 clearances, 5 long balls, accumulated 87% passing accuracy, and tallied the second-most touches (91). Not even to mention his world-class pass to Barella for the second. Bravo!
de Vrij - 7.5: Also played a huge role in the shutout. Had 6 clearances, 4 long balls, 2 blocked shots, and 93% passing accuracy in an all-around superb outing.
Skriniar - 7.5: Forced Ronaldo into trying to create issues on Bastoni’s flank since the 35-year-old had no hope against Skriniar (nor Bastoni, for that matter). Was rock-solid, both in possession (46/47 successful passes) and defense.
Young - 6.5: Had a fairly active showing, making 2 key passes and 24 of 28 passes finding their target. Smart decision to sub him out in the 72nd minute after he picked up a yellow and was matched up with the tricky feet of Dejan Kulusevski.
Vidal - 7.5: It was poetic for the Chilean’s first Inter goal in the league to be against the club where he won so much. That wasn’t all, as he had a 90% passing success rate and entered 12 duels.
Brozovic - 8.5 (Man of the Match: Part 2): Barella and Vidal may get the headlines, but it was Brozovic who was the real engine on the Nerazzurri. Lead the team in touches (93), garnered a 92% passing accuracy, was 8/8 on his long balls, won 5 duels, made 3 interceptions, and 3 tackles. Whew, I almost got tired after just thinking about the Croatian’s massive workload.
Barella - 8.5 (Man of the Match: Part 3): Was instrumental to the victory thanks to perhaps the Italian’s best performance yet of the 2020/21 season. In addition to his clean assist (his 5th of the season compared to 4 last year) and spectacular goal, he tallied 3 key passes and 51/56 successful passes. He is proving to be one of the star performers this season.
Hakimi - 7: Showed his worth when Inter was forced to defend deep, springing counters that released the pressure Juventus was attempting to pile on. Won five duels and had a passing rate of 90% as well.
Lautaro - 6: Missed chances once again were the theme of the Argentine’s night and it was fortunate they didn’t come back to bite Inter. He sent 3 of 3 shots off target which accumulated 0.72 expected goals. His off the ball work was solid, though, and he caused the Juventus backline plenty of problems.
Lukaku - 7: Though the Belgian didn’t get on the scoresheet, he was a substantial part of the result. Lead the team in key passes (3), and engaged in the most duels, winning 9 of 15. Plus, he did this to Giorgio Chiellini:
Darmian - 6: In his return from a hip injury suffered versus Roma, he came on for Young with 20 minutes to go and did an expert job of shutting down his ex-teammate Kulusevski.
Gagliardini - 6: Entered for the man of the occasion, Vidal, late on and did everything that was asked of him relating to securing the result and shutting down the Juve attack.
Sanchez - NA
Conte - 10: Finally picked up his first win as a manager against his old club, and did so in style as well. His starting eleven was spot-on, especially reaping the rewards from starting Vidal. And contrary to other games against big clubs, he managed his subs perfectly so Inter wouldn’t become overly defensive or leave space in behind.
* Please forgive me for the Man of the Match acrobatics :)
Inter is now seven points clear of 5th-placed Juventus, six ahead of Napoli and Roma. The Nerazzurri have now drawn level on 40 points with Milan at the top of the table, though the Rossoneri still have a trip to Cagliari to play on Monday evening. Inter has a week until its next outing, a trip to Rodrigo de Paul and Udinese on Saturday.