The fierce rivalry between two of Italy’s greatest clubs has never simmered below boiling point and this season sees added ingredients thrown in that have spiced things up another notch. All eyes will be focused on the battles on the pitch come Saturday night, but until then listen out for the inevitable off-pitch battles.
Jose Mourinho v Claudio Ranieri
Two former Chelsea managers come head-to-head in Serie A when Claudio Ranieri’s Juventus visit the San Siro to challenge Jose Mourinho’s Inter. ‘The Tinkerman’ has stopped shuffling his pack and settled with a spine through the team that has overseen five straight Bianconeri victories in Serie A. ‘The Special One’ on the other hand knows how not to lose. Mourinho’s teams may not be the most attractive, but they are impenetrably solid at the back and are particularly difficult to break down within the confines of the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza. One of Mourinho’s favourite past times is having a swipe at his Juve counterpart to remind him what a better Coach he is. Earlier this year the former Porto man said of the Italian: ‘He’s been working for a long time and won one or two cups. How old is he anyway? Seventy?’ Upon turning 57 the following month, Ranieri’s whimsical response was: ‘Today you should congratulate me on my 71st birthday.’ Expect to see more histrionics splashed across the tabloids this week.
Walter Samuel v Alessandro Del Piero
With Christian Chivu ruled out with a knee injury and Nicolas Burdisso looking increasingly unconvincing, Walter Samuel is likely to continue at centre-back after returning from a lengthy lay-off. The Argentine is an experienced defender and a good reader of the game, but his sharpness will be suffering through lack of match practice. Trying to overcome “The Wall” will be Alessandro Del Piero, blessed with craft and ingenuity – and a player on sparkling form. Juve’s golden boy has netted four goals in his last four outings and will cause the rusty Argentinean all manner of problems. When Del Piero plays well, Juventus invariably do well.
Maicon v Pavel Nedved
Nedved is rested on occasion, but the experienced Czech wizard is unlikely to sit out a clash with the old enemy. The ageing star may not carry the formidable threat he used to, but has already weighed in with some important goals this season, making a statement of his importance to the Bianconeri. Lying in his path en route to goal is the imposing figure of Maicon, quick, powerful and athletic. The 27-year-old full-back is at the peak of his career and is an important cog in the Inter machine. He is difficult to overcome and his willingness to break forward will run Nedved’s 36-year-old legs ragged.
Patrick Vieira v Mohamed Sissoko
Momo Sissoko has been likened to the French legend Patrick Vieira for his style and ability. Both are powerful, strong in the tackle and indispensable when it comes to protecting their respective rearguards. However, Vieira has a host of medals and experience to his name that the Malian cannot compare with. France’s World Cup and European Championship winner knows how to take a game by the scruff of the neck and will show the young pretender how to take command of midfield warfare.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic v Nicola Legrottaglie
Ibrahimovic is without doubt the main danger man for the Nerazzurri and Nicola Legrottaglie will have to keep tight on him around the box. The Swedish striker possesses quick feet and is capable of squeezing out of the tightest of corners and although an experienced and capable defender, “The Duke,” will hope his full-backs do their job and stem the flow of service to Ibrahimovic from wide areas. The big striker may be good with the ball at his feet, but he is more of a threat bearing down on goal than with his back to it.
Adriano v Giorgio Chiellini
Soundbites coming from the San Siro infer that troublesome striker Adriano is not for sale. Mourinho has taken a hard line with the Brazilian ace since their spat, but has more recently run out of patience with Ricardo Quaresma, signaling a possible return in attack for Adriano. The Nerazzurri strikers have been finding goals hard to come by of late and the enigmatic forward’s injection of flair might just be the tonic. Juve centre-back Giorgio Chiellini is enjoying a fine run of form of late and is one of the reasons why the Bianconeri have the meanest defense in Serie A, conceding just eight goals. Facing an on-song Adriano could be one of the toughest tests of the season, facing an out of sorts Adriano could be one of the simplest.
Massimo Moratti v Giovanni Cobolli Gigli
There is no love lost between La Beneamata and La Vecchia Signora and the fierce rivalry does not end on the terraces or the pitch, spilling over into the boardroom. If there is a game the Presidents of either club want to win, it is this one. Whilst Moratti is prepared to buy success by throwing his money at the club, Gigli takes pride in Juve’s ‘project’ and earlier this season slammed Inter’s recklessness in the transfer market. The Inter President retorted by saying: “It’s the end of the road for them, but we will keep marching on.” With Juve sitting behind Inter in the table, Gigli will hope that Inter don’t walk all over his men.