To quote Guardian blogger Paolo Baldini, this fixture represents a match between “the Proud and the Usurpers; the Honest against the Defrauded; the Champions against the… eh… actual Champions. Don’t let those pretenders from AC Milan or Roma tell you otherwise – from the moment Juventus sealed promotion back to the top flight [...] Italy has been counting down towards one game, and one game only“.
After the first round last November, which ended 1-1 draw at the Stadio Olimpico of Turin, the Derby d’Italia between Juventus and Internazionale is back. Saturday, the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza of Milan will be the host to one of the most intense derby matches in Italy. Two teams not from the same city but who are very much bitter rivals, and also have the highest goals total in Serie A history.
This game, Baldini says, is about much more than just league standings:
Journalist Gianni Brera coined the term Derby d’Italia in 1967 to describe a fixture, between Italy’s two most successful sides at the time (in terms of domestic titles), which was characterised by at least as much passion and animosity as any cross-city derby.
The history of the tie is thick with intrigue and bad blood. After a pitch invasion in 1961, the league initially awarded one such derby to Inter, only for an appeal board to overturn the decision and order a replay. Inter sent out a youth team in protest, which was duly thrashed 9-1, much to the chagrin of Sampdoria striker Sergio Brighenti. He would have been capocannoniere (top scorer) for the season had it not been for the six Juve’s Omar Sívori scored that day. He would also have been Italy’s entrant for the 1961 Ballon D’or, which Sívori subsequently won.
More recently Italy’s parliament had to be suspended in April 1998 when two deputies came to blows over Juventus’s (effectively title-deciding) 1-0 win at the Stadio delle Alpi, where referee Piero Ceccarini denied Inter a penalty for Mark Iuliano’s block on Ronaldo before awarding one to Juve seconds later. Back on the pitch, Paolo Montero punched Luigi Di Biagio in the face in December 2000, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic, then playing for Juventus, took a swing at Iván Córdoba and headbutted Sinisa Mihajlovic in 2005.
And then, of course, we have Calciopoli. Inter stand accused by many Bianconeri fans of stealing both their titles and their players, despite the fact Juventus were desperate to cut their wage bill after relegation and actually received quite fair prices for Ibrahimovic (£16.7m) and Patrick Vieira (£6.5m). Conspiracy theorists, meanwhile, have pointed to the fact Telecom Italia – the company who caught out Luciano Moggi – were at the time run by Marco Tronchetti Provera, president of Inter’s sponsor Pirelli.
A view shared by Goal.com’s Carlo Garganese, who maintains “Inter and Juve have developed into the bitterest of enemies since the Calciopoli crisis in 2006 [guaranteeing] that there will be an explosive atmosphere at San Siro Saturday night“.
Inter are continuing to stutter as we enter the final quarter of the Serie A season. On Wednesday night they could only manage a 1-1 draw at Genoa, having been forced to play more than half of the game with 10 men, following Pelé’s sending off. As it happened however, the draw turned out to be a positive result, as Roma lost 3-2 to Lazio in the capital derby, thus enabling Inter to extend their lead at the top of the table to 7 points.
With just 9 games of the season remaining this advantage should be enough for Inter to retain the Scudetto, however their poor recent performances suggest that it will not be a walk in the park. Inter arguably have a much harder run-in than Roma, as they still have to play Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio away, as well as Juventus this weekend.
As for Juventus, they are virtually guaranteed of a place in next season’s Champions League (with just 9 games remaining they hold a 9-point cushion over 5th-placed Milan), and have recently recovered from a recent poor run (when they picked up just 1 point in 3 games) by obtaining 7 points in their next 3 clashes. However, like Inter, Juve have been far from impressive recently. Last Sunday they required an 88th minute winner from substitute Vincenzo Iaquinta to overcome Napoli 1-0, while they also looked bereft of ideas in midweek as they drew 0-0 at second-from-bottom Empoli.
Nevertheless form will count for nothing coming into this game, and Juve will be pumped up to the maximum to gain revenge over the team that most Juventini blame for Calciopoli. When the two sides drew 1-1 in Turin in November it was a feisty, and at times violent game. Luis Figo broke his leg following a challenge from Pavel Nedved, while Giorgio Chiellini dished out some real rough treatment to ex-Bianconero Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
A Game of Numbers
On top of being one of the most anticipated derbies of the Serie A season, Internazionale vs. Juventus also currently holds the record for being played the highest number of times in Italian league history: Saturday will see the fixture reach an historic 150th match milestone. So far, history seems to favor the Bianconeri who have won the fixture 70 times, against only 42 times for Inter and 37 draws. These numbers are (expectedly) very different of course, if one considers solely the 74 matches played at the San Siro stadium, Inter home soil: in that category, the Nerazzurri lead with 32 wins, 24 draws and 18 defeats.
|Camp. di Guerra|
Staying on the subject of numbers, this match will also be very special for the two team captains, Javier Zanetti and Alessandro Del Piero.
The Inter skipper will be capping his 418th Serie A match (excluding playoff games) with the Nerazzurri jersey, thus surpassing Sandro Mazzola at nº3 in the all-time caps records with Inter Milan (Giuseppe Bergomi still leads that ranking with 519 matches, followed by Giacinto Facchetti, 475).
As for the Juventus captain, Del Piero would reach Gaetano Scirea at the top of the all-time all-competitions leadership of most-capped players in Juventus history. Indeed, Saturday’s match against Inter would make this Del Piero’s 552th match with the Bianconeri and 360th in Serie A (his other matches include 35 caps in Serie B, 45 in Coppa Italia, 6 in Supercoppa Italiana and 106 in international competitions).
Goal.com gives us the ins & outs of who should step on the field Saturday night.
Inter are without the injured Olivier Dacourt, Walter Samuel, Ivan Cordoba, Cesar and Dejan Stankovic, while Pelé is suspended following his red card against Genoa. Juventus will have to make do without long-term injury victims Jorge Andrade and Marco Marchionni, while Cristiano Zanetti is also sidelined.
In addition, Inter coach Roberto Mancini will probably have to do without Brazilian winger Maxwell (who picked up an ankle injury in the Friday training session). The 4-3-1-2 formation predicted by La Gazzetta dello Sport should feature Dejan Stankovic, Patrick Vieira, and Javier Zanetti as the first midfield line, right behind playmaker Luis Jimenez and striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Julio Cruz.
As for Juve coach Claudio Ranieri, his doubts should mostly be regarding his midfield: one possible solution being Mauro Camoranesi in a central role (and Hasan Salihamidzic on the right wing), and the alternative the insertion of Antonio Nocerino (thus reverting Camoranesi to the wing). In either case, Momo Sissoko will feature in the starting eleven, behind what should be strikers Alessandro Del Piero and David Trezeguet.
Duels to Watch
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Inter) vs. Giorgio Chiellini (Juve)
One of the main spectacles of the match will be Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s duel with his former Juventus colleague Giorgio Chiellini. When the pair faced each other in Turin in November they repeatedly clashed off-the-ball, with Chiellini clearly winning the battle both on a physical and footballing level. Ibrahimovic will be keen for revenge, while also attempting to prove that he can perform against the big sides.
Julio Cesar (Inter) vs. Gianluigi Buffon (Juve)
More of a “long-range” duel if you will, but one nonetheless to consider. At the moment, these two gloved superheroes can safely be tagged as the best two goalkeepers the Serie A has to offer (with Sebastien Frey a very close third). It will be very interesting to see who will make the difference on Saturday, at keeping their team’s net safe from the hungry hungry strikers.
Kick-off is on Saturday March 22, 20:30 CET. Que le meilleur gagne!