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On Sunday, the latest edition of one of European football’s most hotly contested fixtures will take place in Turin. The Derby d’Italia pits Italy’s two most successful clubs – Inter and Juventus – against each other, and it is a game that has decided the ultimate destination of numerous Serie A titles over the years.
It was given its title by renowned Italian journalist Gianni Brera, and its history is laced with vitriol as thinly veiled accusations have flown in both directions. The news this week that Paulo Dybala has been in talks with Inter over a potential move this summer will only add fuel to that fire.
Other notable incidents over the years include a 9-1 Juve win, the Inter doping scandal of the 1960s and the 2006 Calciopoli trials. Each ramped up the animosity even higher, while a game between them in 1998 even sparked a fist fight in the Italian parliament when Marc Iuliano and Ronaldo collided in the penalty area.
Each of those are well-known beats to a story that is told in the build up to every edition of this derby, but as they prepare for Sunday’s clash, the players and coaches of both teams will be far more concerned with their current situations than any trip down memory lane.
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Inter go into this weekend’s round of games sitting third in the Serie A table, one point and one place above the Bianconeri. That is largely thanks to a 16-match unbeaten run from Max Allegri’s side, the Coach once again seemingly turning Juve into a machine that routinely churns out narrow domestic victories but falls short in Europe where Villarreal ruthlessly dispatched the Old Lady.
Meanwhile, Inter have won just two of their last nine league matches, and those victories came against Venezia and Salernitana, sides who prop up the table from the bottom two spots.
They too were knocked out of the Champions League, and Simone Inzaghi’s men have managed just two clean sheets over that run, their previously rock solid defence suddenly allowing even the weakest opponents to cut into them.
That has led many to believe that this is a side on a downward spiral following the exit of Antonio Conte in the summer. There is no doubt that they are not the ruthless, all-conquering outfit that the current Tottenham boss forced them to become, and perhaps some slippage is only natural when such a maniacal manager relinquishes control.
Looking on from afar, Fabio Capello has dismissed the criticisms of both teams, starting with those who have bemoaned the dour approach from Juve, who – with just 47 goals in 30 games – have been outscored by no fewer than nine other Serie A sides so far this season.
“Allegri is a smart man and he lets the team play as he can,” Capello told La Gazzetta dello Sport, per Football Italia. “I don’t understand all this criticism for 1-0 victories. Allegri is the most suited coach to win the league, he starts from behind and the others have the weight of the pressure on their shoulders.”
Moving on to discuss Inter, Capello continued by saying “I don’t see a demolished team, they’ll get back even if a lot depends on the match against Juventus. A draw would be like a defeat for both. Juventus will need to take more risks, but Inter can’t be happy with a draw.”
With the Nerazzurri already six points behind first-placed Milan, that is almost certainly true, and if they still have hopes of being crowned champions, neither team can afford not to win this weekend.
That means the Derby d’Italia will once again prove to be decisive, so expect fireworks when Juve and Inter step out at the Allianz Stadium this Sunday.