On Saturday, a nine-year story will come full circle. Antonio Conte and Beppe Marotta will return to the Allianz Stadium as Serie A champions with a team not named Juventus. It was in that stadium, known as the Juventus Stadium in their time, where they started the record-setting title run with Inter’s fiercest rivals. It was also where Conte and Marotta parted ways in 2014. Now they will return together seven years later as Serie A champions, but from the visitors’ dressing room in just one of the many storylines around this match. With Inter in first and Juventus battling on the verge of falling into Europa League football, it will be the Nerazzurri’s turn to possibly play spoiler from the top.
The woes of Juventus this season have been well documented. All of Serie A and beyond have seen the former league winners tumble down the league under rookie boss Andrea Pirlo. They currently find themselves in fifth place and caught in one of the tightest battles for the top four in recent memory. Four teams within three points of each other are fighting for second, third, and fourth on the table, with Juventus currently the odd ones out in fifth place. The Bianconeri trail fourth placed Napoli by one point.
A 3-1 win over Sassuolo on Wednesday was impressive, but offered no advantage on the league table, as each of the four teams in contention for the remaining Champions League spots all won their matches. To make the top four, Juventus will likely need to win both of their remaining games while hoping for their competition to drop points.
Juventus’ road to the top four goes directly through their biggest rivals and the team that has ended their title run. Inter have clinched the Scudetto, but have continued on by defeating Sampdoria and Roma by a combined score of 8-2. The challenge of facing Juventus away while the hosts are still fighting for meaningful position will be tougher than Inter’s previous matches. Because of this, it is likely that Conte will name a stronger lineup than he has in the past two matches. The starters who sealed the Scudetto will make up most of the team, with maybe Ashley Young starting over Ivan Perisic.
While also being able to play spoiler in Juventus’ quest to secure Champions League football, Inter will also be looking to get a first victory away against Juventus since November 2012, when a Diego Milito brace and a third goal from Rodrigo Palacio cancelled out an early Arturo Vidal goal. Dashing Juventus’ Champions League hopes would be huge, as the funding from the competition is especially important in current times, and missing out could trigger the exodus of some key players, maybe even Cristiano Ronaldo. However, a first victory in Turin in almost a decade would see Inter take both Serie A matchups this season and set the tone for how Inter should be regarded in Serie A for years to come.
2-0 (H) - 17/1/2021
1-2 (H) - 2/2/2021 (Coppa Italia)
0-0 (A) - 9/2/2021 (Coppa Italia)
Predicted Starting XIs
Prediction: Juventus 1-2 Inter
This will be a massive chance for Inter to prove that they are indeed the team to beat in Italy. It is also a chance to get revenge for the disappointing Coppa Italia exit at the hands of Juventus back in February. A full team for Inter and a Juventus team playing for their lives will make for an exciting match. Both teams will be playing for the win and it should produce some end to end stuff. However, Inter’s solidity at the back could just prove to be the thing that gets Inter over the line in a match that is more important than it seems at face value.