Juventus welcomed Inter to the daunting Juventus Stadium knowing fully well that a win against their bitter rivals was of paramount importance, even more so considering Milan had dealt with Roma at the San Siro a day earlier. Goals from Martin Caceres and Alex Del Piero were enough for the Bianconer to overcome Ranieri’s Inter. It also saw Conte’s side beat their previous record of unbeaten games held by Capello’s Juve.
Perhaps fittingly enough, Juventus went for their 29th straight unbeaten game against Inter. The Old Lady of Turin now remains in second place with the gap between Milan and them still being four points. Inter on the other hand, drop down to 8th place.
So what did we learn from the game?
Buffon Is The Best in The Business
Juventus started off well and went close via a Matri header, which really, the striker should have buried. Inter, though, responded well midway through the first half and came hard at Juve. Their pressing game forced Juve into errors causing them to lose possession. Inter had their chances and kept banging on at the Juve goal. But one man stood between Inter and a goal – Gigi Buffon.
‘Superman’ as they call him affectionately, was unbeatable. His form throughout the season has been outstanding and last night, he was once again right at the top of his game. And when he is in this kind of scintillating form, he is perhaps the most difficult goal-keeper in the world to beat. His first real test came in the form of Forlan’s header from a corner which produced a magnificent reaction save from the Juventus no.1. What followed were efforts from Milito, Obi and Stankovic which couldn’t find a way past Buffon. This performance and the level of consistency shown by Buffon throughout the course of the season firmly establishes him as the best goal-keeper in Italy and probably the World. If Juventus do go on to win the Scudetto, they have Buffon to thank for his incredible form.
Conte Got His Changes Right, Ranieri Didn’t
We’ve seen many formations deployed by Conte during the season. He started off with the 4-2-4 before switching to the 4-3-3 and more recently the 3-5-2. But he changed the face of the game with his change in formation. Having started off with the 4-3-3, Juventus struggled to keep hold of the ball and Inter’s high-pressing didn’t help. Having shifted to the 3-5-2 in the second half with the introduction of Leonardo Bonucci and Alex Del Piero, the Bianconeri looked more at ease and comfortable. They grew back into the game and finally made their pressure count with a goal by Caceres.
Juve never looked like conceding as Buffon remained largely untroubled for the rest of the half. It’s this tactical flexibility instilled into the team by Conte that gives them an advantage over their rivals. The ability to effortlessly alter formations during a game was one of the main reasons behind Juventus’ triumph in the night.
Ranieri, however, did not react to Conte’s changes the way Conte did to Inter’s dominance towards the end of the first half. He took out his best player on the night in Joel Obi who frankly did look jaded. Faraoni and Pazzini had negligible impact to the game and weren’t exactly the game-changers Ranieri was looking for. Guarin was at Ranieri’s disposal but perhaps he thought it would be better not to risk him given that he’s just recovered from an injury.
Inter Must Plan Ahead
It’s been the most disastrous season for Inter in recent memory and it could not end sooner. Now in 8th and with hopes of a European spot diminishing by the weeks, it’s time Inter plan for next season. A major overhaul is needed for the Nerazzurri. The departure of Claudio Ranieri looks a mere formality but Inter would do well to hang on to him until the end of the season. Bielsa, Villas-Boas, Spalletti have all been linked with a managerial post at Inter and whoever does get eventually appointed by Moratti needs to be shown complete faith and should be backed by the club all the way.
Massimo Moratti must open his cheque-book and splash the money on players that can help get them get through this transitional phase. The deadwood has to be sold to make way for a new, younger generation of Inter players. In Joel Obi, Andrea Poli and Marco Faraoni, Inter already have three promising young talents with the potential to take them forward.
Caceres and Vidal are Juventus’ Warriors
Grit, determination and courage was evident on the faces and actions of two of the best players on the night. Martin Caceres slotted in at right back with consummate ease and constantly provided an outlet going forward. He scored the goal which changed the face of the game. In his second stint at Juve, Caceres has come back a matured player who is now stronger, faster and much better. The Uruguayan International has hardly put a foot wrong since his return to the club and could give Stephan Lichtsteiner a run for his money at right back. As it stands, Caceres should start at right back given Lichtsteiner’s mini dip in form. The Swiss Internaional could do with a few weeks rest and Caceres certainly is the perfect deputy.
Arturo Vidal was everywhere! The Chilean simply does not tire and perpetually hustled and harried at Inter’s midfield. Vidal won back possession for Juventus on countless occasions and also set-up Del Piero’s goal with arguably the pass of the night. The former Leverkusen man is fast growing in the world of Calcio and his dogged performances have already earned comparisons with former Juventus man Edgar Davids. Indeed, Vidal does possess a lot of Davids’ qualities and will be a vital player for Juve in the years to come.
Alessandro Del Piero Remains Fundamental for Juventus
At 37 years of age, Del Piero still has the class and quality that could be of use to Juventus and Antonio Conte. Often overlooked by the manager, in one week Del Piero has scored vital goals against both the Milan outfits. As we head towards the business end of the season, Del Piero could be even more important as Juventus challenge for the title.
Against Inter, Del Piero should flashes of brilliance and sent Mirko Vucinic clean through on goal with an intelligent through ball only for the Montenegrin to miss; minutes later Vidal set-up Del Piero who would do no mistake with his first time finish to put the result beyond any doubt. With Andrea Agnelli announcing that Del Piero’s contract with Juventus won’t be extended come the end of the season, he may be forced to reconsider that decision. Del Piero still has plenty to offer to the Turin giants and could be the ace up Conte’s sleeve.
After the game Conte called him ‘decisive’ and noted that his character and experience could be fundamental during this crucial stage of the season. And who are we to argue? After all, Del Piero is still Juventus’ captain. By signing him on for one more year, Juventus could make their best signing for next season.