San Siro, Milan
Spetember 14, 2013
Juventus and Internazionale will lock horns once again in the derby, which is now widely known as “Derby D’Italia”. The duo have won seven of the last eight Serie A titles though Juventus’ current health is somewhat contrasting to that of their bitter rivals, who are in a transitional phase. Inter will also be looking for revenge as the last time Juventus came to visit them, they were beaten 2-1.
Team News and Tactical Brief
After hitting rock bottom last season, Massimo Moratti rang in a series of changes for the Nerazzurri. Walter Mazzarri was lured away after a guiding Napoli to a successful past two seasons while the average age of the squad, as well as the wage bill, was brought down to incorporate younger players. So far, Inter has shown good signs of recovery and they were off to their best start since the Hector Cuper era by winning two of their opening matches while keeping clean sheets in both. Quite a start, given the fact that Inter had the second worst defensive record in Serie A last season, and conceded at the rate of 1.5 goals in every match.
Inter have scored nine goals in three matches till now (including the 4-0 Coppa Italia victory) and they started their campaign with a solid though late 2-0 victory over basement boys Genoa CFC. Their second game was expected to be a difficult one; an away trip to Catania. Instead, Inter breezed past their Sicilian opponents after scoring three times without reply. Both Rodrigo Palacio and Yuta Nagatomo have scored once in both Serie A matches while Ricky Alvarez seems to be finally fulfilling his early promise.
Mazzarri’s formation largely will be similar to that of Conte’s although Inter is likely field Alvarez in a slightly deeper role behind Palacio, making their formation a 3-5-1-1. Veteran Hugo Campagnaro has been one Mazzarri’s most favourite players and the duo had worked together in both Sampdoria and Napoli before Mazzarri brought the Uruguayan to Milan. Campagnaro is likely to start at the right side of Inter’s three man defence with Andrea Rannocchia, who was strongly linked with a move to Juventus in summer, in middle – mirroring the position of his former Bari team-mate Leonardo Bonucci. Juan Jesus will complete the three man defence.
Yuta Nagatomo has been in fine form so far this season. He has been defensively solid while his overlaps have produced two goals. The Japanese had a good start to his Inter career last season but gradually faced away with rest of the team. He will be facing a similarly in-form Stefan Lichtsteiner on the opposite flank and their fascinating duel may become a differentiating point in this match. The ever impressive Mateo Kovacic seems destined for great things and this match in a lot of ways will be an acid test for him against possibly the best central midfield in the peninsula. The Croatian will be partnered by Esteban Cambiasso, a battle hardened veteran, who was especially impressive when Inter beat Juventus last season, and Fredy Guarin.
After two mixed seasons in Inter, where he was often played out of his normal position, Ricky Alvarez finally seems to have hit his stride under Mazzarri and has shone after playing just behind the lone striker. With 94% pass accuracy and 3.5 key passes per game Alvarez has so far been one of the most creative players in the league. Fellow Argentine Palacio has also hit his form early in the season, bagging a goal in each of his two outings.
Likely starting XI (3-5-1-1): Handanovic; Campagnaro, Rannocchia, Jesus; Jonathan, Guarin, Cambiasso, Kovacic, Nagatomo; Alvarez, Palacio
The international “break” which is usually anything but that for Juventus players was a mixed bag for the club. While there were some exceptional performances, most notably from Gigi Buffon, who also equaled Fabio Cannavaro’s record for most Italy caps, against Bulgaria, Stefan Lichtsteiner against Iceland as well as the Chilean duo of Arturo Vidal and Mauricio Isla, there was also some disturbing injury news. Andrea Barzagli was playing with an injury for past few days and he was withdrawn from the Italian squad while Martin Caceres picked up a meniscus injury which is likely to keep him out for one and half month. Given the circumstances, Angelo Ogbonna may have to make his first Juventus start in one of the most high profile games in the peninsula.
Countering Napoli and Udinese’s formations was one of the primary reasons why Antonio Conte chose to adopt a 3-5-2 formation in favour of a 4-3-3 and Juventus is likely to stick to their 3-5-2 formation in this match, with Walter Mazzarri bringing his tactics from Napoli to the Nerazzurri. Andrea Barzagli’s fitness is doubtful and in case he misses out, Ogbonna will pair up with former Inter graduate Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini.
Paul Pogba is one of the most in-form players in Turin right now and he also scored his first senior goal for France over the mid-week. The youngster is sure to start in midfield along with Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo. Vidal has also been in blistering form till now and he added a well taken goal for his country during the break to the tally of two he scored against Lazio in previous round of Serie A. The Chilean is also up for a contract renewal and if reports are to be believed, he may become the highest paid Juventus player. In contrast to Vidal and Pogba, Andrea Pirlo has had a considerably quiet start to the campaign and has largely been unremarkable so far. For Juventus to do well in this match, Pirlo may have to raise his performance curve a notch against his old club.
Mirko Vucinic, quite excellent against Lazio, was another player who picked up an injury during the break. Fernando Llorente’s difficult final season in Athletic Bilbao seems to have had a negative effect on his confidence as he had a torrid pre-season. Llorente is being eased into the squad by Conte by the looks of it, and has garnered just a few minutes so far. It is unlikely that Llorente will start against Inter but Fabio Quagliarella, who scored a fantastic opening goal the last time these two teams met, seems to be a likely starter. Carlos Tevez has hit the ground running in Italy and has scored in every game he played for Juventus so far. Tevez’s performances in big games have often been his strongest point and he was often a tormentor for the big teams in EPL, most notably Chelsea. The Argentine will be looking to continue his form against some of the national team-mates.
Likely starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Chiellini, Bonucci, Ogbonna; Asamoah, Vidal, Pirlo, Pogba, Lichtsteiner; Quagliarella, Tevez.
Player To Watch Out For
Arturo Vidal (Juventus)
The Juventus 2012/13 Player of the Season has started this season right where he left in the last one – on top. Jan Mulder, former European champion with Ajax in 1970s and a well-known Dutch columnist, described Vidal being “faster than light” while talking about one of his goals against Lazio. The Chilean will be a very important figure should Juventus aim to dominate the midfield.
Ricky Alvarez (Internazionale)
Alvarez is in prime form right now and he will be looking to take advantage of Ogbonna’s inexperience at the top level, should he play. The Argentine has a little bundle of tricks (and was even called “tricky Ricky” at one point) and he will look to exploit any gaps between Juventus midfield and their high defensive line.
Internazionale 1-1 Juventus
Derby D’Italia is invariably a tight game, as big games in Italy often tend to be. Neither of the teams will find it easy in this encounter and may it very well be decided by a single moment of brilliance. For Juventus, the mid-week away trip to face FC Copenhagen will be an additional distraction.