Straight from the dark heart of Italy
Inter’s last match was everything any football fan would want from ninety minutes - so savour it in the pleasure centre of your brain, because this weekend’s encounter with Juventus is set to be rather more mind-numbing.
It is not that the grandly-titled il Derby d’Italia (The Derby of Italy) will lack feeling and passion - it just won’t touch the same heights of ecstasy the eight-goal treat between the Nerazzurri and AS Roma conjured up.
Always billed as the game of the season and the only match that the whole of Italy takes notice of, it is of course a manufactured derby; much like il Derby del Sol (the Derby of the Sun) between AS Roma and Napoli, il Derby del Sud (The Derby of the South) Napoli-Palermo or il Derby delle Isole (The Derby of the Islands - Sicily and Sardinia).
Il Derby del Sol also happens to take place this weekend and will probably be more aesthetically pleasing than the rumble in Turin.
Of course, there is history between Inter and Juventus going way back into the depths of time. But while there is nothing more satisfying than turning over old rivals, there is also nothing more feared than defeat - as the bore-draw at the San Siro earlier in the season demonstrated.
Whenever this game fails to live up to its billing everyone blames the tension that’s stirred during the build-up, and since Juve returned to the top flight it has been the spectre of Calciopoli that has hung most heavily over the fixture like the northern mists that will doubtless shroud the Olympic stadium on Sunday evening.
The ruling Agnelli and Moratti families have long been feuding like the Capulets and Montagues and there is little sign of a truce, even with San Valentino falling on Monday – but we wouldn’t want it any other way.
Massimo Moratti started the week in uppity fashion by claiming the championship had been a complete farce until 2006 - comments sure to have left the Old Lady smarting. But barbed comments have become as big a part of the pre-match build-up as tactical analysis.
Juventus will have a much better chance of beating Inter if Luigi Delneri continues to loosen the tactical straitjacket and allow his team more freedom to take the game to the opposition. The coach played three in attack at Cagliari and came away with a win – only their second in eight games, the other coming against doomed Bari.
However, it looks like it will be back into the padded cell of four in midfield and two upfront. Delneri has had a look at both 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 formations in training in recent days and it seems as though he will attempt to smoother the play rather than spread it wide.
Of course, the revamped visitors need to be shown a certain amount of respect, but Udinese had little time for such niceties three weeks ago as they took the game to the Inter with flair and finesse, earning themselves a timely 3-1 victory over the European and Italian champions. So the Bianconeri of Piemonte understands how a defence can be torn apart: injecting some urgency and courage to take the ball deep into the opposition half.
Here lies the problem if Delneri reverts to four midfielders strung across the pitch. While Krasic - should he be able to muster the pluck to take on Javier Zanetti down the Juve right - will at least get to the by-line and attempt to get the ball into the box, even if the Serbian’s final cross lets him down at times, on the left flank it’s an altogether different matter.
Claudio Marchisio is neither a natural wide player, or for that matter left-footed, and cannot by the very nature of his game provide decent service to the middle. Simone Pepe is back in training and if the little livewire is available then he would be a better option in that position.
As a result chances for Juventus may well be at a premium, and with Leonardo’s side having much more flair going forward, perhaps a cautious approach is the right one for the Old Lady after all.
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