Serie A Preview: Much At Stake As Derbies Take Centrestage

Derby d’Italia

F. C. Internazionale Milan

V

Juventus F. C.

Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan


A win is what the situation demands for both Inter and Juventus, when the two giants of Italian football lock horns in a match known as Derby d’Italia. Jose Mourinho’s men would not want to drop any free points for Roma to profit upon while Alberto Zaccheroni’s men are desperate for any kind of success, to regain some semblance of pride. Juve’s rivalry with Inter has been classified as one of the fiercest rivalries across the world resulting in some grueling encounters. The rivalry is mainly due to the success and popularity of the clubs. Juventus is the most successful and popular club of Italy and Internazionale as the name suggests is very  popular outside Italy due to the services of the foreign star players that the club enjoys. The rivalry has given birth to a number of intense games and has always been a treat for the neutral.

In many seasons the protagonists are in the running for the title, but this season they are in different races. Inter are just a point from Serie-A summit, while Juventus are 3 points from the last Champions League spot. This edition of Derby d’Italia brings in several additional twists. In addition to the latest revelations surrounding Calciopoli, both teams know that a win will mean a knockout blow to the other’s ambitions. A Juventus win will mean a killer blow to Inter’s Scudetto hopes, while an Inter win will mean a knockout blow for Juventus’ hopes to play in Champions League next season.

Inter were punished for a series of ordinary league performances in 2010, with Roma deservedly taking the lead in Serie A.  Should Inter manage to go on and win the Scudetto they would become the first side to win five consecutive titles since Juve from 1931 – 1935 – a record which the Bianconeris are desperate not to share with their rivals, especially when one of the titles was snatched from Juventus and handed to Inter.

The Protesters v The Condemned

The two teams have been in the spotlight over the past week as the infamous Italian match-fixing scandal resurfaced. Following the latest Calciopoli revelations, Juventus have asked for Inter Milan to be treated the same way as they were treated. Former Juve general manager Luciano Moggi’s lawyers are releasing a series of reportedly wiretapped telephone conversations between Nerazzurri President Massimo Moratti and the refereeing designators.

Blast from the Past

Inter have not been beaten at home by Juventus in over two years and that defeat was also the Nerazzurri’s last home league loss. Jose Mourinho will be keen to preserve that record in what will be his 100th match in charge of the Serie A champions. Juventus belying their early form won the home game 2-1, thanks to goals by Chellini and Marchiso, either side of an Eto’o strike.

INTERNAZIONALE MILAN

Current League position: 2nd(67 points)

Current form: WDWWWL

The game this week seems to be a tricky draw for La Beneamata and Jose Mourinho will have a tough time in managing the team. Inter had a mid week Coppa Italia fixture against Fiorentina and will face Spanish Giants Barcelona in their Champions League fixture in less than a week’s time following this clash. Mourinho will have to make some key decisions so as to keep his players fresh for the Champions League as Inter has been criticised for not performing well in Europe. However, a loss against the bianconeris could be crucial in Inter’s quest to win five in a row.

TEAM NEWS: Cristian Chivu is suspended for this game and his position is likely to be occupied by captain Javier Zanetti, who celebrates his 500th match as a Nerazzurri. Dejan Stankovic is carrying a slight injury and is likely to start from the bench. Jose Mourinho has no other worries in terms of injuries however it would be interesting to see how he manages the team.

Probable Line-up (4-2-3-1): Julio Cesar, Maicon, Lucio, Samuel, Zanetti; Motta, Cambiasso; Balotelli, Sneijder, Eto’o; Milito

TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch:
Mario Balotelli (Inter Milan)
He has patched up with Mourinho, and has a point or two to prove to the Juventus ultras.

JUVENTUS

Current League position: 6th(51 points)

Current form: WLWLLL

Juventus, on the other hand, have struggled this season and are now playing without the motivation of any silverware. They are currently 6th in Serie A and desperately want to finish 4th so as to qualify for the lucrative Champions League spot next season. However chances of that happening are very bleak with 5 games remaining, including two trips to the San Siro and an ever-growing injury list. So much is the pressure on the bianconeris that club officials have restricted the press from the stadium and have asked players to refrain from making any press releases unless they are crucial. Coach Alberto Zaccheroni would once again want to prevent Inter from winning the title by defeating the Nerazzuris at their home – something he achieved while coaching Lazio in 2002.

TEAM NEWS: David Trezeguet, Zdeněk Grygera and Sebastian Giovinco are the latest inclusion in the long injury list that the Turin warriors have maintained all season. However Brazilian Diego is available to play a part in the game coming back from injury.

Probable Line-up (4-3-1-2): Buffon, Zebina, Cannavaro, Chiellini, Grosso; Sissoko, Felipe Melo, Marchisio; Diego; Del Piero, Amauri

TheHardTackle’s Player to watch:
Alessandro Del Piero (Juventus)
Del Piero’s expertise would be the key if Juve are to put up a spirited performance against their arch rivals.

TheHardTackle’s prediction:
Internazionale Milan  1-1 Juventus
Inter will have one eye on the Champions League semi-final in midweek and Juventus is no pushover so a draw seems to be the most likely result.

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Derby della Capitale

S. S. Lazio

V

A. S. Roma

Stadio Olimpico, Roma

Derby della Capitale is possibly the most intense European intra-city rivalry in terms of fan hatred. Both clubs have suffered contrasting fortunes this season. Lazio have flirted with relegation, while Roma are now in the pole position in the title race. When Lazio host Roma, they know that a win will derail Roma’s title bid, while help in securing their top-flight status next year. No better motivation would be needed for either team.

Lazio had a disastrous beginning to the year. Contract Wrangles meant that their best players were kept out for reasons not related to performance. The team as a whole suffered and flirted with Relegation. A change of coach coupled with bringing back of banished players have led to a change in fortunes and club is now favorites to avoid relegation

Blast from the Past

The two teams have had a very bitter past and the ultras from both the sides have made this derby a very sensitive affair. Two extreme incidents in particular have left their mark on the history of this fixture. In 1979, a Lazio fan got killed by a flare fired by the Roma ultras from the opposite end of the stadium, becoming the first fatality in Italian football due to violence, and in 2004 an ineffable event occurred when the Roma ultras forced the game to be suspended after spreading false rumors among the crowd that a child had been killed by the police prior to the beginning of the game. The story was even spread among the players when the leaders of Roma’s Ultras went on to the pitch to speak with Francesco Totti and threatened him. Totti then went on to ask the officials to abandon the match.

In the other edition of Derby della Capitale this season, Roma were somewhat undeserving 1-0 winners after being pinned for the entire game by Lazio. Marco Cassetti score a late winner for the hosts. Just thirteen minutes into the first half, the referee stopped play for over seven minutes  due to fireworks being thrown onto the pitch.

LAZIO

Current League Position: 16th (37 Points)

Recent Form: WDDWWL

Team News: Mourad Meghni is a long term absentee. Stephan Lechsteiner will be back to reclaim his right back spot

Players to watch out for: Tomasso Rocchi

ROMA

Current League Position: 1st (68 Points)

Recent Form: WWWWWD

Team News: Roma have a fully fit squad and with all three strikers firing and raring to go.

Players to watch out for: Francesco Totti has always been the center of attraction in this derby, be it for his goal celebration or for his leadership. Luca Toni will continue to press his claim for a WC Slot.

TheHardTackle prediction: Lazio 1-2 Roma. Both teams are in great form, but Roma might have the edge.

  • Somnath

    Il Grande Torino has won 5 back to back titles too :)

  • Somnath

    Roma will equal their all time record if they avoid defeat. They are on a 23 game unbeaten streak in Serie A. Capello’s Roma had a record of 24.

  • But not in 5 consecutive years! 😛

  • redNblack_blood

    heart wants – juve n lazio to win…
    mind says the exact opposite…. :(

    but then again evn in this poor form Juve did end up getting the better of Inter in december…

  • Somnath

    Thats only because they missed out during WW2 years.

  • Well ya… Turin used to be a Powerhouse of Italian Football back then!

  • Luis

    My prediction
    Inter 1-1 Juve
    Lazio 1-3 Roma

    IMO the player to watch out from Inter would be Sneijder and from Juve it would be Diego(if he gets a start).

    It would be very interesting to see how Mourinho plays his cards. He must be under immense pressure from the club’s supporters and authorities. Inter need European glory after failing time and again in UCL. I feel for the situation poor guy is in, Inter fans wouldn’t like it one bit if Inter fail against Juve today. LOL, it would be funny if they end up losing both UCL and Serie A.

  • Somnath

    I think Inter still can win Scudetto, even if they drop points today. Ranieri being Ranieri, is very likely to screw up things despite being on threshold of a title.

  • Luis

    I would absolutely love to see Inter slip and Mourinho leaving for Real come next season. I feel Inter’s glory has only been due to the goof ups of Milan and Juve in the past 2 seasons.

  • Somnath

    Expected result, Inter have a lot more quality than the current Juve side. The win in the first leg was fluke win.

    However Roma won too.

  • Shady

    I just hope JoMo gets the UCL for Inter this season…I dont see Roma being a threat to his side in the long run. Juve and Milan will be lining up bids for the best Roma players end of season. Also Inter winning the UCL will help Italian football rise again to the top.

  • Somnath

    I don’t think Inter’s win will help “Italian Football”. It will only help Inter. Juve & Milan both are in terrible shape right now.

    Juve are atleast better off financially, but with the current mgmnt, financial profits will change nothing. Roma will never have enough resources to go the distance in Europe.