After trading jabs in the media for the past few weeks, Inter and Juventus will now meet face-to-face in the second Derby d’Italia of the season.
Since we’re talking about one of the country’s fiercest rivalries, this fixture hardly needs extra spices to captivate the attention of Serie A fanatics around the globe.
And yet, this season’s edition comes engulfed with a Scudetto tag.
With only one point separating the two arch-rivals (albeit Inter have a match in hand), this encounter is undoubtedly a crucial direct clash with major implications for the title race.
Hence, there won’t be any room for error for Max Allegri’s men if they wish to escape San Siro with a positive result against the team that boasts the most complete and formidable squad in Serie A.
While Simone Inzaghi’s ranks include top-notch stars all over the pitch (and on the bench), Juventus would certainly boost their chances of achieving a result if they manage to thwart the danger posed by three key players.
So let’s take a closer look at the spectacular Nerazzurri trio and the best ways to limit their threat in our own humble opinion.
Hakan Calhanoglu (Deep-Lying Playmaker)
While he hasn’t exactly reached Pirlo-esque levels just yet, Hakan Calhanoglu’s career progress has been somewhat similar to the iconic Italian Regista, transforming himself from an attacking midfielder to a deep-lying playmaker and excelling at it.
The 29-year-old tends to drop deep to help bring the ball forward and pick up his teammates on the flank with precise long balls.
Nevertheless, Juventus shouldn’t commit a midfielder to chase him across the pitch, as it would break their first defensive line.
Instead, when Calhanoglu drops deep, his compatriot Kenan Yildiz should be the one who picks him in the pressing, or perhaps Dusan Vlahovic, thus leaving Manuel Locatelli, Weston McKennie and Adrien Rabiot stationed in their positions to avoid a sudden burst on the counter.
Federico Dimarco (Left Wingback)
Alongside Theo Hernandez, Federico Dimarco is arguably the most explosive wingback/fullback in Italian football.
In Inzaghi’s 3-5-2 system, the 25-year-old has a license to join the attack, while Matteo Darmian (on the opposite flank) adopts a more cautious approach.
But while Andrea Cambiaso will certainly have his hands full of his opposite number in their enticing clash on the flank, keeping the former Genoa man in a deep position could be counterproductive, as it might invite Dimarco to constantly harry Juve’s right side without having to concern himself with the danger of leaving his flank exposed on the counter-attack. Even Alessandro Bastoni could join the attacks.
Therefore, Cambiaso must present himself as a peer for Dimarco, capable of matching his opponent’s attacking threat.
This could prompt Inzaghi to consider a more cautious approach instead of giving Dimarco free rein in attack.
Finding the right balance between attacking and defending will be a delicate task for Allegri in this particular duel.
Lautaro Martinez (Striker)
Well, this man certainly needs no introductions. Inter’s captain, striker, top-scorer and talismanic leader will be looking to consolidate a brilliant campaign with a fine showing in the Derby d’Italia.
Despite playing as centre-forward alongside Marcus Thuram, the Argentine has a knack for dropping back to the midfield to receive the ball, skip past his marker with a clever turn before attacking the spaces between the lines or in between the defenders.
Therefore, Juve’s centre-backs must resist the temptation of chasing him all over the field, as it could be their undoing. The Bianconeri backline must maintain its shape while the midfielders will have to tighten the lines to prevent the likes of Lautaro, Nicolo Barella and Henrikh Mkhitaryan from lurking in the pockets.
While it won’t be an easy mission at all, Juventus can prevail with a little bit of discipline, a Chiellini-like fighting spirit and a moment of magic in the final third.