Inter Milan v Juventus
Serie A Week 34 – Saturday, 27th April – 19:30 GMT – Stadio San Siro
Juventus finished the job in the Fiorentina game, where the mental and physical residue was quite evident in the first half, where they could have easily conceded a couple more, but some luck and Alex Sandro’s goal from a corner kick turned things around and their level improved a lot after intermission.
There are some juicy fixtures left on the schedule and we will see how the lads will treat them as the opposing team will have a lot at stake, while the Bianconeri do not have much on the line, since there is not really an achievable record in sight, Antonio Conte’s records for wins and points can at best be tied, but the all-time gap from the second-placed team, which would be fitting this year.
Massimiliano Allegri hinted at some experiments ahead of next season, but he does not have much to work with as Giorgio Chiellini is the only injured player with good chances to recover and start. Therefore, the XI should not be much different from last week’s one, with the captain replacing Daniele Rugani if healthy enough and Moise Kean as the only alternative up front, where he will duel with Federico Bernardeschi. Rodrigo Bentancur has been ruled out due to muscle fatigue. The tactic could tilt but with the same men.
Giving the youngster a run next to Cristiano Ronaldo and evaluating the results could potentially take one question mark off the whiteboard ahead of a summer that is jam-packed with doubts. The Kean-Ronaldo couple working would allow to go into next season with the starlet and Mario Mandzukic as the no.9s, focusing elsewhere on the transfer market. It is clear that we need better production out of the starting centre-forward and if Kean can provide it in-house, then all the better.
Ronaldo thriving in that position would unlock some tasty stuff, aka using two pure wingers, but unfortunately the results in the first few matches of the season were not encouraging, as he was too often bottled up, and also in his career he has worked better next to a physical guy. What happens in a few pretty meaningless matches down the stretch is unlikely to modify that.
Emre Can as third centre-back and Federico Bernardeschi as box-to-box are other solutions that might be implemented fully and have already be productive earlier this season. Surely fascinating, because the 3-5-2 enhances the efficacy of Joao Cancelo and Alex Sandro/Leonardo Spinazzola, Leonardo Bonucci is more comfortable and makes it easier to pair Ronaldo with Paulo Dybala up front, but it takes out the offensive punch and the muscularity provided by the ex-Liverpool man in the midfield. Perhaps they could function in unison, but the team could be a little too unbalanced if factoring in also Aaron Ramsay.
In their upcoming sit-down, provided they indeed decide to stick together, the brass and the coach need to hash out the tactical direction of the squad, because it would not make much sense to force the manager into the continuous changes to fit the newcomers and whomever stays put. Any formation, especially the more intricate and out-of-the-box ones, need reps to become well-oiled, otherwise you end up being outplayed by lesser teams that instead have a much clearer plan and identity. See Atalanta and Ajax.
4-3-3: Szczesny; Cancelo, Bonucci, Chiellini, Sandro; Can, Pjanic, Matuidi; Cuadrado, Ronaldo, Bernardeschi.
Khedira (knee), Perin (shoulder), Dybala (quad), Mandzukic (knee), Costa (calf), Caceres (thigh).
Inter have re-found their footing after a dip in previous months had cost them the third place, but they pulled away again by beating Milan in the Derby and losing just once in the last six fixtures, where they have tied with Atalanta and Roma at home in the more difficult clashes. They have been quite consistently the third best team in the League, so barring a late nose dive, they should be able to avoid troubles down the stretch.
Kind of like Juventus, they overwhelm lesser teams thanks the quality of their man, their muscularity and sound defending, but without being particularly flashy stylistically. They are among the league leaders in ball possession and only in rare situation change their approach and turn up their pace.
They seem to have solved the rift between Mauro Icardi, Luciano Spalletti, the teammates and the management, or at least reached a truce till the end of the season, but it looks like Lautaro Martinez will be the starter when healthy. While Icardi is a killer in the box, and we are all too familiar with his ability to score, Martinez is more well-rounded and mobile and only a little less clinical. They could find a way to play them both together, but they have so far resisted the idea of doing that from the jump.
They usually deploy a 4-2-3-1 that can easily turn into a 4-3-3 depending on how the game goes since Radja Nainggolan plays in the hole. They should have back Marcelo Brozovic back from a thigh injury in this one, and, while he is not quite at Miralem Pjanic’s level as metronome, they just operate better when he is out there, even though Borja Valero has held down the fort pretty well recently.
Matias Vecino should be the one completing the midfield and his physicality can be a problem on set pieces and when he sneaks into the box. While Nainggolan has not had a great season, also due to injuries, he usually shows up against Juventus and he and Vecino, who are in the end quite similar player, can be a handful. Roberto Gagliardini is the alternative if they want a more defensive posture, and he is in good form, but they will likely opt for their standard look.
Matteo Politano, even though his scoring and assisting tallies are not eye-popping, is probably the one that gets more touches and creates more in their front-line. Ivan Perisic tends to be consistent one way or the other and, unluckily for Juventus, he is in a good stretch now. He would have all the tools to be a big-time player, but sometimes falls into long slumps and disappears throughout games.
Only Juventus have conceded fewer goals than Inter and it is no accident considering the brilliance of their back-line as Milan Skriniar and Stefan De Vrij are both young and complete centre-backs, Kwadwo Asamoah has been as steady as in his last few months at Juventus and Danilo D’Ambrosio has taken the ball and run with it after Sime Vrsaljko went down with an injury, providing a good contribution in both phases and also surprisingly asserting himself as a charismatic figure. Getting two of them for nothing was quite a coup.
4-2-3-1: Handanovic; D’Ambrosio, Skriniar, De Vrij, Asamoah; Brozovic, Vecino; Politano, Nainggolan, Perisic; Martinez.