This is maybe the most important event in the diary of any follower of Italian football. Two of the most supported clubs in Italy fighting for the right to dominate – talking about Inter of course.
The Nerazzurri are currently enjoying the view from the top of the table while Juventus are slowly spiralling down. The pressure will be on everyone’s shoulders to produce something spectacular. The Derby d’Italia is maybe one of the biggest rivalries in football and steeped in controversy. One particular date comes to mind, 26 April 1998. Piero Ceccarini denied Inter a penalty which would have halted Juve from taking yet another Scudetto. This was a decision that went into Italian football history as the most notorious decision made by a referee.
Out of both coaches, Ciro Ferrara will be the man under the spotlight. The past week has not been kind to him as he has suffered two draws, both in Europe and the league. Besides from the coaches and the players, the officials will come under enormous strain when managing this fixture. People often forget how much they have to do. They do not have the privilege of instant replays, and have to make decisions in an instant and often with players protesting from both teams. For instance the game with Juventus and Cagliari was full off instances where the ref has to make a decision that will affect the outcome of the game. In this case it was by not awarding Amauri of Juve a penalty.
The next morning instead of accepting the defeat, Ferrara decided to blame the ref for them losing the game. One must remember that the referee is only one person and even with the help of his assistants cannot see all. This also brings to light the accusation by Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis when he spoke of a new “Calciopoli” after decisions went against his team. Reactions from the Italian Referees’ Association were that of anger and urging him to provide proof or stay quiet. These allegations are only damaging to the credibility of football and in particular referees.
This Saturday all eyes will be on how the officials conduct themselves, and there will always be the whispers of favouritism when the decision goes against you or for you. Inter are going into this fixture as clear favourites to take all three points, whereas la Vecchio Signora will see this game as the perfect practice round before they play Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Tuesday.
The side from Turin have had a week of pure turmoil. First suffering a 2-0 defeat against Bordeaux which put a whole load of pressure on the game against Munich if they wish to qualify for the last 16 in the Champions League. Not only that, but they have also dropped from second to third in the domestic league, following Milan’s win and their loss to Cagliari.
In order for Juventus to even contemplate defeating Inter they need to work on defending set pieces, as the goals they conceded to Cagliari and Bordeaux both came about this way. Juve will be without Felipe Melo due to bacterial laryngitis, but there is a positive indication that David Trezeguet will return. Even Giorgio Chiellini will be in the fold after suffering the nose injury in the game against Cagliari.
The Nerazzurri have recently been in the news over what to do with the problem child that has an abundance of talent – Mario Balotelli. Arsenal are rumoured to be one club interested in the young genius, and they are allegedly willing to pay £20 million for the youngster. Balotelli has been something of a problem child that not even the great Jose Mourinho can tame. For all this it might seem wise to take the money and re invest it into the squad. But is this really to deal with a child that has been catapulted into a man’s world?
Due to Balotelli’s behaviour and attitude Mourinho may consider leaving him out of the squad. This decision will not be liked at all by Inter’s President, Massimo Moratti. Moratti and “the special one” are rumoured to have a cold relationship since the 2-0 thumping by a weakened Barcelona side, and this has lead to talk about Jose departing Italy for a surprise return to the Premiership.
This spectacular match up will have many twists and surprises, but you can almost guarantee that the ref will get blamed for the result…somehow it will be entirely his fault.