Kicking off a murderer’s row of fixtures in February that includes Lazio and Milan, Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan face Juventus in a rematch of Inter’s first Derby d’Italia victory in Serie A in nearly five years less than a month ago. The Nerazzurri cruised to a comfortable 2-0 win in mid January, but with the two teams having seen each other so recently, both will certainly have made adjustments in the first showdown for a berth in the Coppa Italia final.
Juventus have rebounded well since their loss to Inter. Four consecutive wins, including a Supercoppa Italiana victory over Napoli and a 2-0 victory against Sampdoria on the weekend, have helped stabilize the ship for Andrea Pirlo. American Weston McKennie, who was not fully fit to start in the first match, continues to shine for the reigning champions, now getting on the scoresheet and dishing out assists. The Bianconeri have settled into a consistent system, which resembles a 4-4-2, but is very fluid on the pitch.
While Pirlo had to work with injuries to his squad in the last matchup, Matthijs de Ligt, Juan Cuadrado, and Alex Sandro have returned and will be fit for the second clash of the season between the two rivals. However, Pirlo will have to balance his team with rotation, as the two midweek Coppa Italia legs will then be followed by Champions League action in the following midweek. Choices and adjustments are inevitable.
Inter successfully navigated a January of important fixtures for the first time in what feels like an eternity. The draw to Udinese dampened a bit of the joy of the wins over Juventus and Milan in Serie A and the Coppa, but the emergence of Christian Eriksen after a year of turbulence has many in the Nerazzurri camp very excited for February’s clashes with the same massive foes. The Dane’s late winner against Milan to book a spot in the Coppa semifinals was then followed by his best performance in an Inter shirt against Benevento, as his play as Conte’s regista offered Marcelo Brozovic some invaluable rest ahead of Tuesday’s clash. Also invaluable to the team were the goals from Inter’s top strike duo of Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, who scored three of Inter’s four goals on Saturday. The two had been rather quiet lately, but Saturday’s goals should have both attackers confident and hungry for more.
Inter will be without some key players for the first leg, as yellow cards picked up by Achraf Hakimi and Romelu Lukaku against Milan have resulted in a one match ban for both. This means that Matteo Darmian and Alexis Sanchez will be getting the nod for Conte. However, the forced rotation should benefit Inter on the weekend and into next week.
2-0 (A) - 8/3/2020
2-0 (H) - 17/1/2021
Predicted Starting XIs
INTER (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, de Vrij, Bastoni; Darmian, Barella, Brozovic, Vidal, Young; Lautaro, Alexis.
JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Szczesny; Cuadrado, Bonucci, de Ligt, Sandro; McKennie, Bentancur, Arthur, Kulusevski; Ronaldo, Morata.
Prediction: Inter 2-1 Juventus
First legs are always pretty cagey, like Inter’s semifinal tie against Napoli last season. The first leg was decided by a late Fabian Ruiz goal. The last time Inter faced Juventus at this point in the Coppa Italia, neither leg was very cagey, with Juventus winning 3-0 at home and Inter following that up with a 3-0 victory of their own before losing out on penalties in March of 2016.
This tie should have aspects of both of those previous ones, with a caginess extending from the two teams being familiar with each other and also an openness that comes with the derby. Ronaldo likely won’t go quiet for two consecutive matches against Inter, but Conte should still have the upper hand over Pirlo, giving Inter an aggregate advantage but with Juventus taking a crucial away goal back to Turin. This should be interesting.