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PREVIEW : Juventus vs. Inter

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This Sunday evening the next instalment of the Derby d’Italia will be getting underway in the Stadio Olimpico. The chance to record a victory over our fiercest rivals is probably the most eagerly anticipated fixture of the season. Not sure how much sleep I'll get tonight - can't wait! Although the objectives of each team are different at this point in time both are desperate for 3 points. Juventus face a difficult race to claim a Champions League spot and a win could see them climb above Palermo and Udinese and within a point of that all-important 4th spot, currently occupied by Lazio. Inter on the other hand will be looking to show their scudetto credentials and keep up the pressure on city rivals Milan by moving within 5 points of the summit, with a game in hand.

For once it seems Del Neri is almost spoilt for options regarding his team selection with Marchisio and Iaquinta deemed fit to play after injury doubts earlier in the week. So who can we expect to form the starting XI? Despite a few flaps against Cagliari and for La Nazionale midweek, Buffon is starting to show signs that he is settling back into the groove. He’s a big-game player and has that aura and ability to make a game saving stop that is so important in ties like this. Sorensen’s performances at right-back have been promising this season but I’d be worried about throwing the youngster into such a huge match. Add in the prospect of being targeted and ripped apart by Eto’o, Del Neri may be considering bringing in the more experienced Grygera despite his average form. Otherwise it’s unlikely the defence will change from the Cagliari game, with Chiellini playing left-back, Bonucci centre-left, Barzagli centre-right.

Chiellini and Bonucci both got valuable game-time together in those positions with the Azzurri and both impressed. Barzagli has had a week of "how do you solve a problem like Pazzini" lessons from Del Neri and hopefully he can show that his good performance against Cagliari wasn't a one off. In midfield it doesn’t look like any changes are necessary, Krasic on the right wing, Marchisio playing that unnatural yet brilliant role on the left, Melo and Aquilani controlling the middle of the field. Krasic and Aquilani will probably tire, so expect an appearance from Sissoko and Pepe in the second half. Up top Toni should be leading the line with Matri feeding off anything in and around him, or drifting wide to probe. Del Neri needs to have the squad pumped up for the match and time his subs and tactical changes to perfection - this is a good test to see how good he really is and how far he's bought Juve since the summer.

La Gazzetta seems to share my formation prediction at least:

Probabili Formazioni Juve-Inter

KEY BATTLES

Krasic v Zanetti - It looks like Inter have given Zanetti the task of nullifying Krasic in lieu of Chivu’s suspension and the Serb will have to be on top of his game to get the better of him.
Left Flank – Maicon is back to his best but Marchisio should stop him causing us problems along the touchline. Hopefully Eto’o will spend most of his time picking at our right-back allowing Chiellini the opportunity to get forward.
Sneijder v Melo – The Dutchman is hitting form again and Melo will have to wear him like a second shirt…whilst not being over-run by Kharja, Cambiasso and Motta at the same time.

PREDICTION
Matri and Toni have a good chance of getting through Cordoba and Ranocchia (even if I rate him) but with Motta and Cambiasso in front of them it'll be hard for Aquilani to get the service to them. Inter don't have a huge amount of width and if Krasic can get the better of Zanetti we may get quite a few good chances. We've got to be very wary of Sneijder on the counter though so even if we dominate the match, we musn't overstretch. As always, our problem is at right-back but will Inter be able to exploit it? Statistically, history favours a narrow Juventus victory on home turf so I’ll go for a 1-0 bianconeri win – Chiellini header from a corner.

I’ll leave you with this little gem: