Earlier this week, an anniversary was celebrated by Juventus’ social media team. It was Dec. 5, 2009, when one of the most memorable Juventus goals took place. And it just so happened to be a goal that took place ... in Turin ... against Inter ... in the Derby d’Italia.
Think about it.
A season that, overall, sucked about as much as any Juve season has sucked about as much as any over the last 10 or 15 years. But a goal that, in the moment, made all of that season’s crap go by the wayside and be forgotten.
Ah, memories. The wonderful, wonderful memories — of that game, that goal.
We are in better days than the Dark Ages of the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons. Much, much better days. Seven straight Scudetti kind of better days.
The midway point of the 2018-19 season is fast approaching. And what do you know, Juventus and Inter Milan are set to meet for the first time this season all of 2 1⁄2 weeks before Christmas arrives. Serie A’s top dog welcomes a third-place Inter side that is a massive 11 points behind Juve in the standings, with the reality that their best shot of even contending for the Serie A title already a thing of the past.
Still, despite the huge lead atop the Serie A standings, despite Max Allegri saying that Wednesday night’s Champions League group stage final against Young Boys is more important because of what’s riding on it — and he’s not wrong — this is still Juventus-Inter.
And just in case you need a reminder of something that happened the last time these two teams met each — well, besides the whole last-minute comeback thanks to Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain — there’s this:
As you can probably figure out, these teams, no matter where they are in the standings, don’t like each other one single bit. Not one. Not at all. And not just because Mario Mandzukic is always that guy who is always on edge and is the living, breathing embodiment of the Mr. No Good nickname.
With that, we welcome you to this year’s first edition of the Derby d’Italia.
Juventus’ unbeaten run in league play this season reached 14 straight with their relatively routine 3-0 win over Fiorentina at the Franchi last weekend. Maybe the scoreline flattered Juve’s end product a little more than what it actually was, but even as they rested one of their best players and played at a stadium that is one of the most hostile venues they’ll visit all season, nothing really went wrong. And for a team that has had its issues with finishing this season — and in seasons prior because duh — there was none of that.
Case in point: Mattia De Sciglio convincingly won the individual battle with Federico Chiesa as Fiorentina’s string of games with little to no offense at all was extended another week.
Inter have, with an international break thrown in there, struggled to get positive results over the last month since blasting Genoa 5-0. (Welcome back, Cesare Prandelli, by the way.) As much as the draw against Barcelona is a feather in their cap, the opposite can be said about the 4-1 loss in Bergamo to Atalanta. Or the 1-0 loss to Tottenham in the Championship League. Basically, the only win Inter have recorded since we came back from the last international break was against a Frosinone side that has one victory to its name and is sitting in 19th place.
Despite that, this is a Friday night encounter that is a huge fixture for Juventus during a month that features a bunch of huge fixtures. Allegri can say it’s not as important as a Champions League game, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not important. You think Allegri, with all that he’s accomplished during his time in Turin, wants to see his side see this current record-breaking run that they’re on come to a halt on its home field by virtue of losing to arguably its biggest rival? Nah, don’t think so.
Juventus-Inter has a big game feel without a doubt. It might not be the BIG GAME that it would be if they weren’t separated by 11 points in early-December, but it’s still a big ga1me.
It’s Juventus hosting Inter, dammit. That’s what we’re here for.
A quick check of the Serie A standings tells me this:
Juventus: 40 points
Inter: 29 points.
It will never get tiresome.
Hey, have you heard Juventus have injuries in the midfield? Emre Can might be back, but Rodrigo Bentancur might have to sit out because of his back. (See what I did there?!)
If there was ever a sign — ANOTHA ONE! — that Juve needed to sign a midfielder come January, this is it. Enough of having three midfielders available, man. Allegri needs options to rotate the one area of the field that desperately needs some rotating so that Bentancur, Miralem Pjanic and Blaise Matuidi can get some rest.
1) If Bentancur can’t go, which way does Allegri go?
Based on what Allegri said at his pre-match press conference Thursday, there seems to be three different options here:
- Bentancur’s back isn’t as bad as Allegri made it to be and he plays.
- Bentancur doesn’t play and Allegri goes with a 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1 formation with Pjanic and Matuidi as the two center mids.
- Bentancur doesn’t play and Allegri gives Emre Can a start for the first time he’s been available to be called up since undergoing thyroid surgery six weeks ago.
Since the third option seems like it’s a little too soon to throw Can right back into the starting lineup, I’ll just go ahead and assume that the first two are the main ones in play.
The predicted starting lineups that came out Friday morning made it seem like Bentancur being in the starting lineup is a certainty, with his newfound back injury not really much of an issue at all just one day after Allegri told us all that Juve’s most in-form midfielder could miss the Derby d’Italia. Maybe that’s the case and all of the freakout about Bentancur suddenly becoming a doubt for the derby — as a result of what Allegri told us, I might add — was for no reason at all in the big picture.
But, no matter what formation Allegri does decide to go with, I feel safe in saying that it will hinge on Bentancur. That’s pretty cool to type — even if it’s because of a possible Bentancur injury. (Still a fanboy. Don’t judge me!)
2) Juventus vs. Juventus
When things have gone wrong for Allegri’s squad this season, it’s not necessarily much of anything that the other team has done. It’s more of Juventus being Juventus’ worst enemy.
We saw that the last time these two teams played — and that’s even taking into account that Pjanic could have made things even worse if he had been sent off against 10-man Inter.
Outside of the fact that Inter sits in third place behind Napoli, they are basically ranked second in most major categories that Juventus are the leaders in. Juventus have the best defense in Serie A ... Inter have allowed the second-fewest amount of goals. Juve have the best goal differential in Serie A ... Inter have the second-best goal differential. And so on, and so on, and so on.
You get it.
So excuse if I’m a little worried about Leonardo Bonucci’s less-than-stellar defensive performances this season going up against Mauro Icardi. Or if I’m a little worried of Juventus letting Inter hang around for a good portion of the game after taking a 1-0 lead in the first half. It’s these types of things that we’ve become used to as Juventus supporters, but they’re also things that have seen games we thought Juve would control become anything other than just that.
If Inter play well, then there’s nothing we can really do about that.
But if Juventus are the better side and then become their own worst enemy, that’s something that will prevent this team from getting all three points and putting even more distance between themselves and their rivals from the black and blue side of the San Siro.
3) Keeping tabs on Mauro Icardi.
I could write another 500 or 600 words about how Juve’s No. 1 defensive priority is to make sure they don’t lose track of Inter’s captain and star striker.
But you know that by now.
We don’t need to delve all that much deeper into that.
We know all we need to know about how Icardi haunts Juventus in what seems like every single game he plays against them.
So, I’ll just leave it at that.
Juventus, please don’t let Mauro Icardi score another goal against you. (Related: It seems like Friday night would be a really good time for one of those classic monster Giorgio Chiellini games where he puts the team’s top striker in his back pocket for 90 minutes. Yeah, one of those. I like those.)
When: Friday, Dec. 7, 2018
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy
Official kickoff time: 8:30 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe; 7:30 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time; 11:30 a.m. Pacific Time
HOW TO WATCH
Television: ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, RAI Italia America (United States); RAI Italia America, TLN (Canada); Eleven Sports 1 UK (United Kingdom); Sky Sport Serie A, Sky Sport Uno, Sky Calcio 1, Sky Supercalcio HD (Italy)
Online/mobile: ESPN+, ESPN Deportes+ (United States); DAZN (Canada); SKY Go Italia (Italy)
Other live viewing options can be found here, and as always, you can also follow along with us live and all the stupid things we say on Twitter. If you haven’t already, join the community on Black & White & Read All Over, and join in the discussion below.