Inter v Juventus
Serie A Week 8 – Sunday, 18th October- 19:45 GMT – Stadio San Siro
Is this a must win game? Technically not, because we are only at the 8th match day, but I think symbolically it is, for various reasons. First of all, every game against Inter is a must win game, period. Secondly, Juventus must rapidly close the eight-point gap from the arch-rivals. Finally, Juventus have already badly botched two big games against Roma and Napoli, and it’s time to make a statement after a stuttering start. It’s safe to say that the schedule has not been particularly kind with all these difficult matches on the road, but I guess the silver lining is that we will host them when things get more significant later in the season.
It’s been a frightening international break, but luckily there have been no major repercussions. Alvaro Morata did not fracture his fibula as first feared and the ankle sprain that forced Paul Pogba to leave the France camp is not severe. Both are expected to start, but we will know more about them after the pre-game presser by Massimiliano Allegri tomorrow.
The irony: Martin Caceres has been reinstated after his car crash, but in the meantime he has suffered an ankle sprain while playing with Uruguay because of a tackle with Juan Cuadrado. It’s a bummer since El Pelado would be perfect in this fluid 3-5-2 where the right centre-back often acts as a right back: I think everybody would agree that Caceres is a better fullback than Andrea Barzagli. Stephen Lichtsteiner remains sidelined as he is following a protocol to heal properly from his heart condition, the latest reports say that he could return in mid November. Roberto Pereyra has a hip muscular problem and his availability is in serious doubt. Mario Mandzukic has trained with the rest of group, a sign that he has recovered from the thigh strain, but we will see if he is fit enough to be called up. Of course, the biggest news of the week is that Claudio Marchisio is ready to go after his second physical problem of the season, hopefully the last one as Il Principino has never been injury prone.
After the break, you usually have to factor in the long travels by South Americans, who have returned only on Thursday, and consider resting them. I don’t think Juventus have that luxury with Paulo Dybala and especially Juan Cuadrado. Juventus are still without a right back, so 3-5-2 is pretty much the only option: I don’t think Allegri would dare putting Barzagli or Padoin there in a straight 4-3-1-2 formation.
Juventus should be able to field something very close to an ideal XI, with BBC in front of Buffon, Sami Khedira partnering for the first time with Marchisio and Pogba in the midfield, Cuadrado and Patrice Evra on the flanks, Dybala and Morata upfront. If Pogba and Morata are not considered healthy enough to contribute, Mario Lemina or Hernanes and Simone Zaza would take their places.
UPDATE: Mandzukic has been called up and Pereyra too. Morata is a game-time decision.
3-5-2: Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Cuadrado, Khedira, Marchisio, Pogba, Evra; Morata, Dybala.
Lichtsteiner (heart condition), Caceres (ankle).
Inter have come down to earth in the last two matches after an explosive start. They had not really steamrolled anybody even before the two stumbles: they barely beat Chievo, Hellas Verona and Milan and they triumphed thanks to late goals against Carpi and Atalanta, but at least they got job done. The match against Fiorentina was kind of fluky as it was ruined by early gaffes, while they played decently against Sampdoria but also were pretty exposed by Blucerchiati’s counter-attacking game.
Inter have not been particularly impressive in terms of style of play and rhythm. They are a very physical team who can control the pace, is pretty good in defending and always finds a way to score because they have terrific weapons at disposal. It looks like an early José Mourinho squad.
During the break they have recovered Stevan Jovetic who has been battling some weird stuff, a thigh problem but also some back pain, all caused by a posture imperfection that will continue to nag him. The Montenegrin forward has been their best player so far, with three goals in five matches and especially he adds that little zing in the attack that nobody else in their roster has.
Roberto Mancini should opt once again for 4-3-1-2. He had hinted in the past that he could use a three-man defense once Gary Medel, Miranda and Jeison Murillo would all be available, but this is probably not the right game for experimenting. Moreover, he used 3-5-2 a little against Fiorentina, but that did not produce any good result.
Their only long-term injured player is Nemanja Vidic, who has had back surgery and that will not see in an Inter jersey until January (or ever…). They have a couple of banged up midfielders: Felipe Melo missed a practice with muscle fatigue while Geoffrey Kondogbia spent the break dealing with an ankle injury. At this point, it looks like the French ace will sit, with the former Juventus playing as pivot and the versatile Medel on his side, with Fredy Guarin completing the midfield. Anyway, any combination of these four is possible for Sunday.
There has been some chatter about switching to 4-2-3-1 so Ivan Perisic can be used in his natural position, as he is not playing up to his potential as no. 10. The Croatian winger performed very well when he was moved to the lete flank late in the Sampdoria game and with his national team. However, the only viable option as right winger is Jonathan Biabiany. The defense should be composed by Davide Santon, Miranda, Murillo and probably Juan Jesus: Alex Telles has a chance to starting at left-back, he is a decent player with good feet but he tends to get lost when he is obliged to defend a lot and Juventus field on that flank one of their most effective weapon, Cuadrado. The main threat comes from Mauro Icardi, who has always scored when he has faced Juventus, dating back to his Sampdoria days: he has tallied six goals in five matches against the Old Lady.
UPDATE: Ljajic has been ruled out with muscle fatigue. There are still doubts about Jovetic’s availability, so Palacio or Biabiany could start.
4-3-1-2: Handanovic; Santon, Miranda, Murillo, Jesus; Medel, Melo, Guarin; Perisic; Jovetic, Icardi.
Vidic (back), Ljajic.
Stats and Facts
Infographics from www.sporticos.com