Italian and European champions Inter have struggled under coach Rafael Benitez this season. Reasons are aplenty but the crux is that the Nerazzurri are not as formidable as last term, either in Italy or in Europe.
Sulley Muntari, MacDonald Mariga, Thiago Motta, David Suazo, Maicon and Walter Samuel are unavailable for the derby because of injuries. Benitez is likely to opt for a 4-2-3-1 formation that will see Goran Pandev, Wesley Sneijder and Samuel Eto’o as the three attack-minded midfielders with Diego Milito as the lone striker upfront.
Daniele Bonera, Alexandre Pato, Filippo Inzaghi and Massimo Oddo are out injured for the clash with Inter. Latest reports suggest that Ronaldinho could be dropped to the bench with Clarence Seedorf taking over the role of the trequartista and Robinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic playing up front.
Heading into the Derby della Madonnina on Sunday evening, the five-time running Italian champions find themselves fourth in Serie A with 20 points from 11 matches, three fewer than city-rivals Milan. Inter’s form too has been poor this month. After losing to Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 at White Hart Lane in the Champions League, they were held to successive 1-1 draws by Brescia and Lecce in the league.
Inter’s defence has found it tough to cope at times, although having conceded just six times in the league they do have the best defensive record in the division. Up front modest form and injuries have impeded star striker Diego Milito from invoking his goalscoring prowess of last season, resulting in Inter netting just 13 times in 11 league fixtures, four less than ninth-placed Palermo. Inter’s home form has been stuttering as they have drawn three of their last five games in all competitions at San Siro.
Nevertheless, Inter have proved themselves to be the champions of the Milan derby for a while now as they have won this fixture on the past three occasions. Benitez’s men will know that a victory will see them draw level on points with the Rossoneri. A defeat, however, will push the Biscione six points off the pace.
Cynics may still hold reservations about Milan’s chances of winning the Scudetto this season but with the rest of the title challengers suffering from inconsistency, Massimiliano Allegri’s side are very much in with a chance to reclaim the championship they last won in 2004.
Milan have struggled at the back and have conceded 11 goals in as many games in the league. To put this into perspective, the former European champions have conceded more than Parma, who are level on points with third-from-bottom Bologna. However, the Milanese giants have been prolific up front — 20 goals in 11 league fixtures mean that they are the second highest scorers in the division after Juventus.
However, Allegri’s side will have to tighten up at the back and also rediscover their big-game mentality. Milan have to failed to win against any of the big sides they have played so far this season – they drew with Lazio in Rome, lost to Juventus at San Siro and also failed to conjure up a win in either game against Real Madrid in the Champions League. A derby’s a special occasion and club supremo Silvio Berlusconi will demand his team to exhibit a special performance.
A reader recently posed the question to email@example.com, ‘Is Juventus — Roma a match you can lose your shirt on?’ Well, yes quite frankly so it’s a surprise to see Roma as long as 3.62 to repeat their January win in Turin.
Both teams are on the comeback trail and are outsiders for the Scudetto (Juventus 6.0, Roma 12.0) so a win is crucial if either has genuine title aspirations.
Since losing to Palermo in mid-September the Bianconeri have gone on a ten game unbeaten run in all competitions. Beating current league leaders Milan at San Siro during that period has made the bookmakers price Juve @ 2.27 to beat the visitors from the capital this weekend.
Just like last season it’s a case of deja vu for Roma fans. Another poor start means they have begun putting out fires and the Giallorossi have a W4 D1 recent record. Manager Claudio Ranieri will need little cause for motivation to beat his old club. He was ecstatic when John Arne Riise scored a late winner back in January to steal the three points against an out of sorts Juve. The ‘Tinkerman’ revealed after that match that he had saluted the Turin faithful but not the directors who dispensed with his services in 2009.
Juventus have a host of injuries and suspensions to contend with. Fabio Quagliarella, who has scored in both of the last two games, will again be a threat as will Alessandro Del Piero. The veteran number 10 scored in Juve’s last win in Turin against Roma in 2008 and also in January’s 2-1 defeat. On each occasion they were the first goal of the game.
Roma’s away record in Serie A is little to shout about (W1 D1 L3) and against Juventus it’s even worse. Their win in January was Roma’s first in seven against the Bianconeri and that victory also halted a four match losing streak against Juventus.
Serie A’s critics had a field day in midweek. Eight of the ten games went under 2.5 goals and in six of them there was one goal or less leading to accusations the league is dull and predictable.
Nonsense. Calcio has rarely been closer with five points separating the top six. What better way to answer the critics than by Saturday night’s signature game being a classic.
There’s plenty of reasons to believe why it could happen. Each of the last three games between these teams have gone over 2.5 goals and in seven of the last ten both teams have scored. Roma have improved recently but remain defensively suspect away from the Stadio Olimpico. Juventus are the league’s top scorers (15 at home) so a turgid stalemate isn’t being forecast.