Saturday will see the coming together of two men that have more in common than coaching teams with serious Scudetto aspirations.
Juventus Coach Claudio Ranieri was the manager at Chelsea for three years before Roman Abramovich came to England and poured his millions into the club and after just one further year in the heated climate of the Russian’s company, the Italian was relieved of his duties despite relative success. The man who stepped in to replace the Tinkerman at Stamford Bridge and go on to become the club’s most successful and controversial manager in modern history was current Inter Coach Jose Mourinho.
The two will now meet at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza as they continue to battle for top spot. After last Saturday’s 2-0 victory against Palermo, Inter are now currently sitting at the top, but thanks to an assured performance in a 4-1 win over Genoa in the midweek, Juventus are right behind them, with only three points separating the two sides.
After leaving Chelsea last year in less than amicable circumstances, Jose Mourinho took his time before returning to coaching and after a nine month sabbatical, was named as Inter’s new boss in June. Despite a relatively uneventful transfer window, in which only Sulley Muntari from Portsmouth and Ricardo Quaresma from Porto were the most notable signings made, ‘The Special One’ has begun life in Italy with a mixed set of fortunes. Champions League form has been sluggish, Adriano continues to find toys to throw out of his pram and Mourinho has upset the Italian press on countless occasions already. Despite this, the Nerazzurri are still top and look defensively strong and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, after recent troubles with fitness, is starting to rekindle the form that saw him marked as a world-class player in the past.
And of Mourinho’s Stamford bridge predecessor? After guiding the Old Lady to a respectable 3rd place in the Serie A standings in their return season to the top flight after Calciopoli, Ranieri is, by and large, enjoying another successful season in Turin. Having won seven out of the first 12 games this season Juventus look genuine title contenders and just two years after being thrown into Serie B for their part in the match-fixing scandal that rocked Italian football.
A massive game with huge stakes for both Coaches, the tactical battle due to take place on Saturday will be all crucial in securing the points and pride in the Derby d’Italia.
Mourinho has always favoured the attacking 4-3-3 formation. Utilised during his time with Portuguese and European Champions Porto, it was his most frequently used formation at Chelsea too and is once again in practice, this time at the San Siro. Mourinho has remained a firm believer in the single target-man leading the trident attack, flanked by pacey, productive wingers either side. On more than one occasion he has deployed a three man strike force with Inter using Victor Obinna and Amantino Mancini to complement Ibrahimovic, While it has made for some very entertaining displays – most notably the 4-0 drubbing of Roma – this formation has taken some criticism recently as it has only worked in patches and was heavily to blame for the 1-0 loss to fierce rivals Milan. Many are suggesting Inter should go back to playing the 4-4-2 formation that served them so well under Roberto Mancini, but given Mourinho’s reaction last weekend to the latest comparison with the Italian legend, there’s little chance of change.
For the majority of this season Bianconeri Boss Ranieri has gone with a standard 4-4-2 formation and there’s no reason why he would change this tactic for Saturday’s game, despite the temptation to go man for man with Inter. Having taken maximum points in their last five games, La Vecchia Signora go into the game in good form, boasting a team filled with stars at the top of their game. Italian legend Alessandro Del Piero is playing some of the best football of his career at the moment and will be buoyed by his fantastic performances in the recent Champion’s League victories over Real Madrid. His strike partner, Brazilian ace Amauri, is also in good form, averaging a goal every other game in this campaign so far. Mourinho will know that in order for his Inter side to get anything against Juventus he will have to keep these two quiet.
There is also danger from deep in the Juventus line up, the ever-green and ever reliable Pavel Nedved will always be a threat whether he’s playing out wide or in the middle of the park. Despite Ranieri’s reluctance to start the Italian starlet Sebastian Giovinco, he will have the option of introducing him later on in the game in order to inject pace and help with counterattacks. The loss of Gianluigi Buffon to injury will have hurt the Turin giants but former Arsenal ‘keeper Alex Manninger has been a formidable replacement so far and will no doubt be thinking of last season when he saved a crucial Marco Materazzi spot-kick while playing for Siena, forcing Inter to postpone their Scudetto celebrations.
It will be interesting to see how attacking the line-up Mourinho opts for against Juventus, and with the Nerazzurri at home, his preferred system is likely to look more like the 4-3-3 shape rather than the 4-5-1 formation. The use of the wide men would be a serious test for the Juventus back line and with the striking ability of former Bianconeri hero Zlatan Ibrahimovic in attendance, there will always be a serious goal threat. Juventus are in no way to be written off though, as in Alessandro Del Piero they have a striker who is bang on form. It’ll also be interesting to see how Juventus’ workmen-like midfield consisting of Pavel Nedved, Momo Sissoko and Marco Marchionni deal with the attacking prowess and creativity of Dejan Stankovic, Ricardo Quaresma and Javier Zanetti.
This has the potential to be one of the games of season so far, with both teams and Coaches with something to prove to their respective fans and each other. In what is sure to be another tight game, a moment of brilliance by Del Piero or Ibrahimovic could prove the difference on the night. Inter will be desperate to put one over on their rivals, but buoyed by the underdog tag and currently in extraordinary form, Juventus could provide an upset and take all three points, in turn further piling the pressure upon the Inter Tactician.