This Friday sees a huge clash in Serie A as Juventus host Inter at the Allianz Stadium in Turin. The Nerazzurri are already 11 points behind their rivals after 14 matches, and defeat here would see any small hopes of a title win fade to nothing as Juve march on towards an eighth consecutive Scudetto.
Yet more than a heavily-favoured champion facing an unfancied pretender to the belt, this is a rivalry so fierce that it was handed the title of “Derby d’Italia” (Derby of Italy) back in 1967 by journalist Gianni Brera. That teams from two separate cities – albeit separated by just 90 miles in the North of the country – now have derby status in the matches between them is testament to a series of incidents that have caused an intense dislike.
One of the most notable of these was when Juve were stripped of their Serie A title in 2005/06 and relegated to Serie B for the following campaign during the Calciopoli controversy. A further crushing blow would then be delivered when their league win was handed to third-placed Inter after AC Milan in second were also given a points deduction.
Moving into more present times, well-loved Juventus director general Beppe Marotta looks to have made the move to San Siro after the Bianconeri opted to move forward without him. The 61-year-old has been the man responsible for sourcing Juve’s incredibly astute signings since 2010, a foundation from which their unprecedented recent success was built.
“We’ll see” was the answer given to reporters by Marotta outside a Lega Serie A meeting, when questioned over rumours that he will be officially unveiled in a new capacity at Inter ahead of Friday’s anticipated encounter. If so, it will be a poignant moment indeed, especially as this will be seen by many as a sure-fire way to close the gap.
A good summer in the transfer market saw Inter impress on paper, however boss Luciano Spalletti is yet to get his team firing on all cylinders, a tendency for inconsistency harming their chances of getting near a Juventus team that remain unbeaten in the league this term. Even if they are still a long way from making a genuine attempt at the title, a win over their despised rivals on Friday will certainly give them some hope that they are heading in the right direction.
Last year’s fixtures between the pair first saw a monumental effort from Inter secure a 0-0 away from home, but the match in Turin was poignant in that it was the last of an unbeaten start to 2017/18 for Inter – Spalletti’s side going on to notch up two losses followed by five consecutive draws. It was followed by a thrilling 3-2 away win for Juve at San Siro, scoring on 87 and 89 minutes to take home all three points in a victory which effectively handed the Bianconeri the title towards the end of the season.
All of the above factors give this fixture a real intensity, and neutral supporters can look forward to something special at the end of the working week. It is now 51 years since Brera gave this match its moniker, and it has been living up to it ever since.