Juventus   V   Inter Milan

Serie A – Week 17 [6th January – 20:00 GMT] – Juventus Stadium



After a disappointing loss to Napoli in the SuperCoppa and a long winter break, Juventus and Serie A return. 2015 starts off in strong fashion for the Old Lady, with a derby d’Italia matchup versus rivals Internazionale. Inter have had mixed results since hiring Roberto Mancini but look to make a strong statement with their new coach versus a team he has fare relatively well against recently.

Luckily Juve’s starters are fully rested. Gianluigi Buffon, who had been starting but not at 100% health before the break, is recharged and will start in goal. Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini make up the preferred centerback pairing and Stephan Lichtsteiner will start at right back while Patrice Evera starts at left back. Of course, with Kwadwo Asamoah out injured, Evra is a lock to start against quality opponents.

Andrea Pirlo will start in midfield along with the rest of the usual suspects: Paul Pogba, Claudio Marchisio, and Arturo Vidal. Vidal is likely to play in the more advanced midfield role on the pitch, the “1” in 4-3-1-2 as he has in recent games. Luca Marrone is still out, so Roberto Pereyra and Simone Padoin are the options for substitutions.

Finally, Carlos Tevez is once again expected to start. Tevez starting is one of life’s guarantees, like death and taxes and calcio fans complaining about referee’s decisions. Fernando Llorente is expected to partner him, which means Alvaro Morata is expected to come on for Llorente at the 70th minute.

Predicted Lineup

4-3-1-2 :  Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Bonucci, Chiellini, Evra; Pirlo, Pogba, Marchisio, Vidal; Tevez, Llorente


Andrea Barzagli (Heel), Kwadwo Asamoah and Romulo  (Both undergone knee surgery.

Luca Marrone (Thigh) and Martin Caceres (Thigh) are returning to match fitness.



Inter Scouting

It’s tough to have a feel for the Mancini II’s Inter and the coach himself probably hasn’t figured out what the best lineup for the current squad is yet. In seven games, they have won against Chievo Verona and Dnipro, drawn against Milan, Qarabag and Lazio and lost against Roma and Udinese. He has fielded seven different XIs.

The main problem for Mancini is that he wants to play with two wingers, but he hasn’t any in the roster. Therefore, he often tried far-fetched lineups with either Mateo Kovacic, Fredy Guarin, Mauro Icardi, Rodrigo Palacio and Dodo on the flanks. None of this experiments has worked: the management is trying to give him two offensive wingers (the purchase of Lukas Podolski should be announced before the match) so he can build a passable 4-2-3-1, with 4-3-3 being the fallback option.

For this match, 4-3-1-2 remains by far the most logical formation: Kovacic is blossoming (four goals, two assists) and he’s at his best behind two strikers, rather than in a four or three-man midfield; Zdravko Kuzmanovic has unexpectedly revived his career after his putrid eleven months under Walter Mazzarri; in a position slightly more distant from the goal, Guarin doesn’t threaten the spectators’ health with a hundred shots in the stands per game and Gary Medel is actually an above average barrier in front of the defense. Icardi-Palacio is a natural and well-combined pair. Hernanes and Yann M’Vila could be two alternatives, but the Frenchman hasn’t played that much and the midfield would be weakened with Hernanes in for Kuzmanovic. Inter have played their best football with this tactic and I expect Mancini to be clever, even if his beliefs would prefer other schemes.

The defense is a problem: they have conceded many comical goals where the defenders made ridiculous blunders or looked by statues, with the opponents gliding past them at ease. Yuto Nagatomo is unavailable due to AFC Asian Cup, Jonathan is questionable (and probably fallen out of favor, like Nemanja Vidic at this point): the defensive line should be composed by Danilo D’Ambrosio, Andrea Ranocchia, Juan Jesus and Dodo. Certainly not the stoutest defense in the world. Hugo Campagnaro could be an (uninspiring) alternative as RB.

The players tend to be a little rusty in the first game after the winter break, but this time off was certainly helpful for Mancini. Since he was appointed, Inter hadn’t really showed something remotely close to an organized team play, maybe he was able to implement some of his principles in the last week of practices. Juventus will have to focus mainly on the singles’ play, like Kovacic’s ability with the ball, Icardi’s incisiveness in the box and Palacio’s craftiness, even though he hasn’t been himself since suffering an ankle injury in the World Cup. Pablo Daniel Osvaldo isn’t likely to start, but he’s been very sharp so far in this season and he has been arguably their best performer, besides Samir Handanovic.

Inter have massively underachieved in a season where the race for the final UCL sport is wide open due to Napoli’s early struggles. They are desperately looking for that game, that performance that can turn their season around, allowing them to make a strong push towards the noblest areas of the table (they are currently in a baffling 11th position). Will it be the match against Juventus?

Predicted Lineup

4-3-1-2 :  Handanovic; D’Ambrosio, Ranocchia, Juan Jesus, Dodo; Guarin, Medel, Kuzmanovic; Kovacic; Icardi, Palacio.