- We approach one of the juiciest fixtures of the domestic calendar season.
Juve-Inter is near, with both sides and their fans getting used to the idea of a return leg behind closed doors.
The recent outbreak of the Corona Virus hit the North region of Italy late last week. Bergamo and the Veneto area being hit the worst.
As a result, Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte was quick to cancel four competitive fixtures from last weeks Serie A calendar. This included Inters home feature against Sampdoria.
Inter look to keep up the pace
Antonio Conte will still be livid following his side’s inability to hold a 0-1 lead at half time against fellow title challengers Lazio at the Olympico in Rome last week.
The match ended in a 2-1 defeat for the Nerazzurri who dropped from 1st to 3rd, following the impressive 4-2 comeback win over Milan in the derby at the start of the month.
Despite the set back, Inter still find themselves in a prosperous position and sit only six points behind the league leaders Juve with a game in hand.
However, the postponement of the recent weekends fixture may do more harm than good for Conte’s side.
Failure to win in Turin may see Inter lose pace with Ronaldo and co. at the summit.
Despite their stutters in the league, Inter took home a very positive 0-2 result from Bulgarian league leaders Ludogorets mid-week.
The return fixture takes place only 3 days prior to the kick off against bitter rivals Juve, also in front of an empty crowed.
Last 5 matches: WLLWW
Ludogorets 0-2 Inter (W)
Lazio 2-1 Inter (L)
Inter 0-1 Napoli (L)
Milan 4-2 Inter (W)
Udinese 0-2 Inter (W)
Ronaldo taking charge in Turin
With goals in 11 straight appearances, the 5-time Ballon D’or winner Cristiano Ronaldo tied a Serie A record set by legends Gabriel Batistuta for Fiorentina, and Fabio Quagiarella of Sampdoria.
The Euro 2016 champion has recaptured his form once again in the second half of the season and is the driving force in this otherwise lacklustre and uninspired Juventus outfit.
Coach Maurizzo Sarri will be full of confidence in his side and will relish the opportunity to (at least temporarily) put daylight between his side and Conte’s, with a victory for the Bianconeri making it all the much harder for Inter to break the dominant Juve streak.
Juventus hung on away to SPAL to get all three points last weekend, but will no doubt be feeling the fatigue come match-day 26, as they travel to France mid-week to take on Lyon in the first leg of their round of 16 clash in the UEFA Champions League.
Last 5 matches: WWDLW
Spal 1-2 Juventus (W)
Juventus 2-0 Brescia (W)
Milan 1-1 Juventus (D)
Verona 2-1 Juventus (L)
Juventus 3-0 Fiorentina (W)
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Need I say more? Ageing gracefully with 21 goals in 20 games this season, the same amount he finished on in 2018/19. With one eye firmly on the first leg in Lyon, Ronaldo will need to leave a little in the tank for their main domestic rival this weekend.
A turbulent season for the Argentine. When called upon, he is absolutely dynamite, however, with inconsistencies in Sarri’s preferences up top, Paolo has vocally and visibly vented his frustrations when substituted or left on the bench.
23 goals in all competitions has Rom excelling up to for Inter. Returning the favour to Antonio Conte for forcing Inter’s hand into a large transfer fee, Lukaku has netted 17 goals in Serie A this season, contributing 2 assists in the process. If Inter can isolate and find the big man, he will be hard to contain.
The absolute engine for Inter this season. When he is missing, Inter look sufficiently weaker, struggle to bring the ball out from the back, and are overlapped constantly in midfield. Without a 100% fit Stefano Sensi, it will be up to the world cup finalist to pull the strings and orchestrate the structure of Inter’s movement. Should line up alongside Barella and Vecino, whilst also linking up with Eriksen in the ins half.
This will be the official 201st meeting in the league between the two clubs. Juventus have tasted victory 91 times to Inter’s 58, with 51 resulting draws.
Juventus sit in 1st position with 60 points after winning 19 matches and losing and drawing 3 each. In the process, the bianconeri have gone about their business, scoring 48 goals and conceding 24 so far this season.
Inter on the other hand sit in 3rd position on 54 competition points with one game in hand on 1st and 2nd place. They have registered 16 victories, 6 draws and 2 defeats at the hands of Lazio and Juve in the return fixture. Inter have netted 49 times and conceded 22 goals this season.
TEAM NEWS & LINE-UPS:
Giorgio Chiellini is expected to start with Merih Demiral and Douglas Costa both out and Maurizio Sarri is expected to continue with midfielders Miralem Pjanic and Rodrigo Bentancur.
Aaron Ramsey could also return to the starting line-up after a substitute appearance against Lyon.
Predicted XI: Szczęsny; Cuadrado, Bonucci, Chiellini, Sandro; Matuidi, Pjanic, Bentancur; Ramsey; Ronaldo, Dybala.
Samir Handanović is set to undergo a late fitness test to see whether he’s ready to keep goal against the Italian champions, with Inter optimistic.
Christian Eriksen may start here behind Inter’s devastating attacking duo Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martínez, although it would not be surprising for Conte to go slightly more conservative in the midfield, anchored by Brozovic.
Predicted XI: Handanovic; Godin, De Vrij, Skriniar; Young, Barella, Brozovic, Vecino, Candreva; Lukaku, Martinez.
Three points is definitely more important to Inter than it is to the reigning champions.
Taking into account the closed door policy, Juventus will no doubt feel the lack of presence in their arena this weekend. That being said, the mentality of Ronaldo & co. doesn’t seem like it is ready to break down and let Cone and Inter get back on potential level terms in the campionato.
The longer the match drags out without a clear winner, the longer it is likely to settle for a tie.
Juventus 1-1 Inter
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