With a 2-1 Coppa Italia semifinal aggregate to overturn, Antonio Conte and his Inter Milan side had their work clearly cut out for themselves going into Turin to face Juventus on Tuesday. Needing at least a 2-0 win, Inter came up empty-handed in a match that offered very little daylight for the visitors. Inter could not crack a Juventus side set up to defend with their lives, a similar setup to that of Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League, which Inter also could not find the net against.
To some surprise, Conte sent out arguably his strongest XI possible, with Matteo Darmian coming in on the left side of the midfield five and Christian Eriksen gaining a place in the starting lineup over the likes of Roberto Gagliardini and the suspended Arturo Vidal. Romelu Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi returned from his first leg suspensions as well.
Andrea Pirlo set up an ultra-defensive side with the aim of hitting a desperate Inter on the counter. The rookie manager’s 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 featured both sets of Juventus fullbacks on the right flank, with Juan Cuadrado and Danilo both defending against Hakimi. Their main outlets after winning the ball came in the form of Federico Bernardeschi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Dejan Kulusevski.
JUVENTUS (4-4-1-1): Buffon; Danilo, Demiral, De Ligt, Alex Sandro; Cuadrado, Bentancur, Rabiot, Bernardeschi; Kulusevski; Ronaldo.
INTER (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, de Vrij, Bastoni; Hakimi, Barella, Brozovic, Eriksen, Darmian; Lukaku, Lautaro.
Though Inter needed the ball from the start to chase down the result, it took nearly all of the opening 10 minutes for the Nerazzurri to grab a bit of meaningful possession. Inter found buildup difficult because of the same tactic Pirlo employed in the first leg, using Kulusevski to man-mark Marcelo Brozovic. Rotation with Eriksen in the midfield helped this a bit, but Inter’s most useful out ball for the majority of the match was Hakimi on the right flank, who worked well against his two markers and even created the first Inter chance of the match by cutting back a cross in the box that Lautaro missed, a pattern again in this match.
Lautaro had two very high-quality chances in the first half, but failed to convert either one as Inter headed into the halftime interval with only one shot on target from nine attempted. Worryingly, Juventus ended the half with a flourish which saw Ronaldo kept off the scoresheet only by defensive blocks by Stefan de Vrij and Alessandro Bastoni and a save from Samir Handanovic in goal.
Despite the pressure early and late in the half from Juventus, Inter seemed close and were rather unlucky not to have gotten their needed goal in the first half. The bad finishing that had marred Inter in the past, however, also seemed to be looming large again.
After a promising first half, it seemed that Inter would find the breakthrough in the second half. Disappointingly, Inter lost much of their attacking impetus in the final 45 minutes. As things grew increasingly desperate, players began to misplace passes and crosses, but the Inter press still provided a bit of hope. When Juventus broke the press, they got in on goal dangerously, but Handanovic brought his shooting gloves and kept Ronaldo out on multiple occasions. Concerningly, Lukaku, Inter’s main talisman seemed a step off the pace all match. Moving slowly to get back onside and struggling to provide anything in attack. This made the goal chase all the more difficult because Inter largely goes as Lukaku goes in attack and morale.
Conte began his subs early, bringing on Ivan Perisic for Darmian after 55 minutes. Aleksandar Kolarov and Stefano Sensi also came on to try to turn the match around, but Sensi seemed to still be lacking match sharpness. Kolarov played well but did not stamp anything on the match in the end. As time wore on, no goal came, and Inter’s Coppa Italia campaign ended with the final whistle.
Handanovic - 7.5 (MOTM): After an awful first leg, Inter’s captain showed up and did his part to keep Inter in the tie with some timely saves. A very solid performance for a player who sometimes struggles against Juventus.
Skriniar - 7: When some of the midfield did not look to push forward, it was the Slovakian who was pushing the ball forward on the right, overlapping with Hakimi and putting in crosses. Also contributed to Inter’s first clean sheet at the J Stadium since 2017.
de Vrij - 7: Helped Inter keep their high line in attack, often as the only defender that was not pushed up onto a flank. Also got back when needed.
Bastoni - 6.5: Worked just as hard as his partners in the back three, but got caught on the ball the most in the Juve press. Nonetheless, he provided a solid performance in defense and attack.
Hakimi - 6.5: He was Inter’s most dangerous weapon in the first half, but his influence waned in the second half. Should have had at least one assist.
Barella - 6.5: Worked as hard as usual, but got lost in transition at times. More of Barella running with the ball might have opened up the Juve defense some more. Can’t blame him for the result.
Brozovic - 6.5: Coped better with Kulusevski man-marking him, but still did not stand out massively. He kept the ball moving in the midfield, but did not take the game by the scruff of the neck as he can.
Eriksen - 6.5: Worked very well rotating with Brozovic between mezzala and regista. Showed great tactical awareness and looks more confident than ever in the Inter team. His set pieces were not as dangerous as they can be, though.
Darmian- 6: Kept tabs on Kulusevski when Juventus came forward, but did not offer too much in attack from the left. Perisic had more influence when he came on early in the second half.
Lukaku - 5.5: Looked very off it at times in this match. When someone so important to their club, a lack of urgency in a bug match hurts everyone. Slow to get back onside multiple times and just generally a passenger.
Lautaro - 5.5: Still not clinical enough. Kicked Bernardeschi on the first big chance and then missed an open net volley on the second. He works so well until the final shot, but his finishing is killing the team at times.
Perisic - 6: Offered a bit more than Darmian going forward, but could not contribute to a breakthrough. He might be making the best case for starting among Inter’s LWB options right now.
Sensi - 5.5: After spending over a year with various injuries, he is still not up to speed with the team. Misplaced a lot of passes late.
Kolarov - 6: Did well when he came on, but did not do anything spectacular. Looked unsure when he got the ball close to the Juventus box late in the match.
Conte - 6.5: He threw the kitchen sink at this match from the beginning. First choice players across the pitch and an exciting midfield composition. He can’t put the ball in the net for the players, but he put the best team out there possible. Hopefully, everyone is fresh before facing Lazio on Sunday.
Inter are now officially in only one competition for the rest of the season. This means total focus on the league, Scudetto or bust. This intense league focus starts on Sunday against Lazio, where Inter need a resounding result before another Derby della Madonnina.