Serie A Week 31 – Sunday 3 April 2022 – Juventus Stadium | Preview by Tlalane Phahla – Follow her on Twitter
The 2021/22 has produced one of the most thrilling and scintillating Serie A title races in recent memory. Unlike previous seasons where at this stage there was a clear winner, this time around three teams (many would argue four) are still very much fighting to be crowned champions. There have been new favourites each weekend as the result from each match has led to the top spot changing.
The Derby d’Italia as it is known, is one of the most sought out fixtures in Serie A. It is passion, rivalry and intensity between the two fan bases who, to put it mildly, do not like one other.
Just seven points separate the leaders Milan and fourth placed Juventus. Milan don’t play until Monday, however a victory for the Bianconeri would bring them closer to first place than have been the entire season. The fact that many believe the Old Lady isn’t out of the race just yet is a testament to how Massimiliano Allegri has turned things around for Juventus. Now that’s its almost certain that the hosts will be in the Champions League next season and they are aiming to finish even higher, with second place within reach. Juventus have now gone 16 league games without a defeat and Inter will be have to be at their best to put that run to an end. Inter have not enjoyed travelling to Turin to face Juventus. The last time they beat Juventus at home, you have to go back to 2012 and this fact is sure be known amongst the Juventus squad as they look to keep it that way. Despite that, Juve’s last defeat against an Italian team was against Inter in January in the Super Cup final.
Expected XI (4-3-3): Szczesny; Danilo, De Ligt, Chiellini, De Sciglio; Zakaria, Locatelli, Rabiot; Cuadrado, Vlahovic, Dybala
- Dusan Vlahovic scored his first Serie A home goal against Inter for Fiorentina in December 2019. That goal remains the only one he has scored after the 90th minute of play in the competition.
- Inter are Juan Cuadrado’s favourite Serie A target. He has scored five league goals against them, all in home matches, including his brace in the last meeting played at Allianz stadium.
- No side has kept more clean sheets than Juventus in Serie A this season (13, same as Napoli), whilst only Torino (3) has conceded fewer shots on target on average that the Bianconeri (3.1). Inter are the sixth team in this ranking, with 3.6 shots on target faced per match.
For the first time this season, the champions do not control the Scudetto and if anything, their title defence is heavily reliant on other teams doing them favours. Their struggles in the last seven games have not only put their title defence under serious threat, but they may well have to settle for fourth position. They have won just once in the last seven games and are now six points behind their fierce rivals Milan who have played a game more.
Inter manager Simone Inzaghi is expecting a tough game in Turin and said they know where they are and it is now time to show character – He insisted they must have a great game on Sunday evening and refelected as much in his pre-game press conference: [Fcinter1908]
“Too much scepticism towards Inter? I think criticism is part of the profession. Fortunately I have the intelligence to distinguish constructive criticisms. I know where they come from and I don’t consider those made artfully.” He said.
If the champions fail to win the scudetto and do not win the Coppa Italia too, questions have to be raised over Inzaghi’s future and suitability for the job. He joined the Nerazzurri in the summer replacing Antonio Conte and faces an uncertain future if he cannot win either of the two trophies:
“Staying at Inter even in the event of a difficult summer? I am very happy and proud of the choice I made in June. I knew we would lose 2 of the best players but together with my staff we did a great job, which has raised everyone’s demands,” he said.
Expected XI (3-5-2): Handanovic;
- Ivan Perisic (199) could become the third Croatian player to reach 200 Serie A appearances in the 3 points for a win era, after Marcelo Brozovic (224) and Milan Badelj (210). He faced Juventus 10 times in the competition, winning once, drawing four and losing five.
- Inter have drawn each of their last four Serie A away matches (two 0-0s and 1-1s). They last drew five league away games in a row in December 2004 under Roberto Mancini (six back then).
- In all competitions, Inter have won only one of their last 15 away meetings against Juventus (1-3 under Stramaccioni in November 2012). In the process Juventus have won 10 matches and drawn 4.
Croatian midfielder Marcelo Brozovic is expected to return to the line-up after recovering from muscle injury and this will be his first game since signing a new contract, tying him to the champions until 2026. Inzaghi confirmed Brozovic has trained with the team, as did Stefan De Vrij, but it’s unclear whether he will be available.
Juventus have been unlucky with injuries and still have scores of players out with long term knocks. Federico Chiesa is still nursing a knee injury as well as Kaio Jorge, while Weston McKennie is also out with a broken ankle.