In the old adage, familiarity breeds contempt. In the case of Inter and Juventus, it breeds the Derby d’Italia. Tagged as a national duel in 1967 by famed Gazzetta journalist Gianni Brera, the term was meant to celebrate the bi-annual contest between Italy’s most domestically successful teams. The Derby famously brings the ferocity of the Milan and Turin derbies together, however, the showcase of Italian football is dogged by a history of scandal and stream of ill will.
Ahead of the meeting of the minds, which will see former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho and his Stamford Bridge predecessor Claudio Ranieri pit their wits at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, the historical relevance of the clash will be brought to the fore. From the Parliamentary fisticuffs inspired by the 1998 fixture to the 1961 match-up, which was marred by a pitch invasion – the 151st Derby has a long history to stand up to.
The first real flare up in this hot-headed affair, saw Inter awarded a Derby victory in the 1960/61 season after a pitch-invasion had rendered the game unplayable. However, after some discussion, the FIGC proclaimed that the game should be replayed and – beginning the fierce competition nurtured by the fixture – a petulant Inter fielded their youth team in protest. Juventus duly handed the Nerazzurrini a 9-1 thrashing, with prolific Argentine Omar Sivori bagging six, as the Old Lady raced on to the title, with Sivori leapfrogging Sampdoria hitman Sergio Brighenti and Inter’s most expensive purchase Luis Suarez, to lift the Capocannoniere and subsequently, the Ballon d’Or.
Inter were swift in their revenge, taking the 1962/63 title by beating Juve both home and away on course to the Scudetto. The success in the two teams is palpable as, to date, the combatants have held the top two spots together on ten occasions, with Juventus taking the podium successfully six times, while only having to look up at Inter from second place on four occasions.
Adding to their prowess in the title race, up until the Calciopoli scandal of 2006, the Nerazzurri and La Vecchia Signora had been the old guard of Serie A, with neither ever falling out of the Italian top flight in their illustrious histories. The scandal that rocked Italy left Inter the only team never to have kicked off a season in the whiles of the second tier – and with the teams a division apart – it would see that resentments would at least be rested until Juventus completed the formality of returning from Serie B.
However, the enforced absence seemed to only make the hearts grow colder, as Inter were awarded Juventus’ ill-gotten Scudetto and -rubbing salt into the freshly opened wound – pilfered the relegated Turin club, snaring both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Patrick Vieira at a snip. Capitalising on Juve’s demise and offering prices they knew the Bianconeri couldn’t afford to turn down for the enigmatic Swede and the once formidable Frenchman, Inter’s actions simply served to keep long-held bad blood boiling until Juve could return to the top-flight.
Now lining up in the blue and black, Inter will hope that the Swede can curb his temperament come Saturday, as when playing for Juventus in the 2005 Derby fixture, Ibrahimovic spent the majority of the game swinging at Inter’s Ivan Cordoba and clashing heads with controversial Serbian – free-kick specialist turned Bologna coach – Sinisa Mihaljovic.
Adding to the pugilist edge that the Derby has earned, Juventus’s Uruguayan centre-half Paolo Montero took exception to Inter midfielder Luigi Di Biagio in the 2000 match-up and clocked the Italian in the side of the head in a very tetchy affair. However, it isn’t just the blows delivered on the pitch that have led to the Derby being revered as a heated encounter.
Following a series of controversial refereeing calls in the 1998 fixture, most noticeably Ronaldo’s path being cut abruptly short by Mark Iuliano for what seemed a definite penalty, a war of words escalated beyond what anyone could have expected. Normally, a media dissection of a decision that incidentally turned out to have a great deal of influence in the title race would have sufficed. However, this is the Derby d’Italia.
The decision at the Stadio delle Alpi by referee Piero Ceccarini, who coincidentally awarded Juve a penalty in the same game, lead to a session of Italian parliament being suspended when deputies from the far-Right National Alliance and Democratic Left came to blows over accusations of match-fixing. The matter struggled to be laid to rest, with those on the accusing side finding vindication in the Calciopoli rulings of 2006, which lead to the first ever break in the Derby d’Italia.
When the Derby did return to Serie A, the fireworks were still present. Headstrong Giorgio Chiellini took exception to former teammate Ibrahimovic and after sizing each other up, the duo were duly separated by teammates, who were anxious to endure another fierce contest with all their men on the field.
The ensuing 1-1 draw in November was noted mainly for Julio Cruz’s purple patch, in which he became the go-to-guy for saving Inter’s skin when more expensive striking talent couldn’t be depended on. By the time the two sides met in the reverse fixture, it had seemingly been rendered a formality with Inter set to run away with the title. However, a packed Giuseppe Meazza watched on as Ranieri’s men handed Inter their first defeat on home turf in over a year, with goals from Mauro Camoranesi – dubiously breaking the Inter offside trap – and a low-drive from David Trezeguet blazing the Bianconeri into a 2-0 lead before Maniche pulled one back for the Nerazzurri. Despite the attempted derailment, Robert Mancini kept his side on course, steering Inter to their 16th crown.
Come Saturday, expect the history to be put aside and witness two teams focused on setting some early season pace by getting the upper hand on an old enemy.