Juventus vs Inter Milan
At the start of the season, if you had told me that Juventus vs Inter Milan was a Serie A clash between the Scudetto winners and a side battling to take a top four place, I would have said “fair enough”. But I’d have got it the wrong way around!
I would have been a little surprised to see Antonio Conte’s Inter struggling to make the Champions League places, but a 10th consecutive Scudetto for the Old Lady would hardly have been unexpected.
But what has unfolded over the past nine months has raised more than a few eyebrows in the European football community.
With two games to play, the stark fact is that Inter have already taken the Scudetto away from Turin, currently 13 points ahead of second-placed Atalanta.
But the Bianconeri, holders of the Italian title since 2012 as well as Cristiano Ronaldo’s team, is fifth, are a point behind Napoli in fourth and three points behind the other top four contenders.
These are unchartered waters for the current generation of Black and Whites and it remains to be seen whether they have the stomach for the fight when the pressure reaches fever pitch.
The last team Andrea Pirlo’s men want to meet right now is Inter Milan!
Four teams, three places
The Scudetto is long gone to Milan and the Serie A relegation battle is almost done and dusted – with Crotone and Parma down, and only Benevento hanging on to a slim hope of a great escape.
But the race for the top four continues at a furious pace since only three points separate the four teams from second to fifth as Atalanta and Milan are on 75, Napoli are on 73, and Juventus are on 72.
And it’s difficult to see which of the three teams above the Old Lady will slip up as all four won their midweek matches in the 35th round, and in some style.
Napoli’s second half charge continued with a 5-1 hammering of Udinese. But that was eclipsed by Milan’s 7-0 win away to Torino as Ante Rebic scored a hat-trick.
That result would have angered Bianconeri fans who watched their city rivals roll over.
Atalanta coasted past Benevento 2-0 while Juve won at Sassuolo. Oh, and Inter won as well, by the way.
This weekend, while the Old Lady faces up to the runaway champions, her rivals have rather less daunting assignments – with Napoli away to Fiorentina, Milan at home to Cagliari, and Atalanta away to Genoa.
Juventus are under immense pressure and they need to win this one.
Can CR7 save Juventus?
There’s one man we can be sure that will feature heavily in the Serie A 2021 highlights and that’s Ronaldo of course.
He’s on course for the Capocannoniere since he’s six goals ahead of Romelu Lukaku and no matter how well the Belgian has performed this season, he isn’t about to score back to back hat-tricks.
But I Bianconeri needs some divine intervention following some recent disappointments. A trip away to Fiorentina didn’t end as Juventus’ hoped when they left Florence with a single point, playing out a 1-1 draw.
They followed that up with a 2-1 victory away to Udinese, but then disaster struck when they were humbled in a 3-0 defeat to AC Milan last Sunday.
A 3-1 win away to Sassuolo has kept them in the hunt as Ronaldo scored his 28th goal of the season, but now anything less than six points from the remaining two games will almost certainly lead to the Europa League and a year of Thursday/Sunday games.
That is something Ronaldo and co. desperately want to avoid.
What is Inter’s motivation?
Conte’s team stormed the league, winning the Scudetto with four games remaining and they can rightly feel their 2020/21 work is done.
But there was no sign of the foot coming off the gas pedal on Wednesday night when they beat Europa chasing Roma 3-1 with Lukaku rounding off the scoring on 90 minutes.
The former Everton and Manchester United striker has been outstanding this campaign with 22 goals and 10assists, but so has his partner Lautaro Martinez who has contributed 16 goals.
The 23-year-old Argentine hitman was a target for Barcelona at the start of the campaign, but he’s stated how happy he has been to stay at Inter and we can see why.
These two strikers are still hungry for goals and former Juventus player and coaching legend Conte is a man with great integrity, though he’ll be sorry to see his former club in turmoil.
The Old Lady have had the better of these fixtures, winning 30, drawing 21, and losing 14 of the 65 matches played since 1993.
This season, Inter beat Juve in the league 2-0 in January, and then they lost to I Bianconeri in the Coppa Italia in February.
Furthermore, Juventus have not lost at home to Inter in nine meetings.