On Sunday night, Juventus will defend their stadium against the defending champions, Inter Milan, in the Derby d’Italia. This match is usually the most important in Italy every season, and no love has been lost between these two eternal rivals of Serie A.
Juve have been getting consistent results in Serie A, and they somewhat erased the sour notes of their Champions League collapse against Villarreal by defeating Salernitana in the league before the international fixtures.
Just one point behind Inter, Juve have done well to close the gap in Serie A, galvanized by the winter signings of striker Dusan Vlahovic and midfielder Denis Zakaria, who’s poised to return to action this weekend following a spell on the sidelines. They remain seven points back of Milan in the Scudetto race, but a win on Sunday will keep their faint hopes alive. Maybe better yet, it will decisively pull them clear of the Nerazzurri.
3 Juventus players who must step up in the Derby d’Italia
In order for the Bianconeri to secure the three points, they will need their heavy-hitters to step up to the plate.
CM Manuel Locatelli
Manuel Locatelli has to be listed first as a player who must step up. The burden cannot be on him alone in midfield, but he is clearly Juve’s top midfielder. Since signing from Sassuolo this summer, the 24-year-old has been a steady performer for the Bianconeri, scoring three goals and providing four assists in Serie A. Juventini are still waiting for his best version, but they can be satisfied with his performances thus far.
A big-game player, Locatelli has scored a winning goal in a derby for Juve this season, though this decisive goal was against Torino in the Fall. An all-around midfielder, Locatelli is the key to Juventus maintaining control against a star-studded Inter midfield that includes thrilling playmakers Nicolo Barella and Hakan Calhanoglu, as well as the steely Marcelo Brozovic.
FW Paulo Dybala
Sky Sport Italia has Paulo Dybala in their starting XI, and though Dybala’s name is subjected to rumours to Inter, of all teams, Juventini should not be worried about him betraying the Bianconeri this summer. More appropriately, they should not worry about Dybala on Sunday. He will always give his best on the field as a professional, and he still loves Juve despite the rather tense contract negotiations for more than a year.
Dusan Vlahovic’s initial matches for Juventus have been very good, but, make no mistake, La Joya is still the star of this team. Dybala has eight goals and five assists this season with many other decisive actions. He works so well with Vlahovic that it is really a shame these two forwards will not be able to build on their work in 2022/23.
Juve are headed for a real fight with Inter at the Allianz Stadium, and if any one player can be the difference at the very end of the match, then it is the playmaking Dybala with that oh-so-sweet left foot of his.
ST Dusan Vlahovic
I could have gone in another direction, perhaps with a defender or a two-way player like right-back Juan Cuadrado, but I cannot overlook the importance Dusan Vlahovic will have this Sunday night at the Allianz Stadium.
Vlahovic, with all due respect to the sensational Victor Osimhen at Napoli and blossoming Englishman Tammy Abraham in Rome, is the best striker in Serie A. But to maintain that standing and to eventually truly earn comparisons to the best of the best in Europe, he must show that level every week. The biggest games included. Vlahovic has the makings of a Juventus hero, and he can write an important chapter by scoring a key goal to help lead the Bianconeri to a Derby d’Italia victory.
In six starts and one additional substitute appearance in Serie A, Vlahovic already has four goals and an assist for the Bianconeri. That is a great return on investment. But you know he is hungry for more and to truly establish himself as the team’s most important player. Dybala and even Cuadrado still have him beat in that regard, but Vlahovic can establish himself as “The Guy” with a Man of the Match display this weekend.
He won’t have it easy against Milan Skriniar, Alessandro Bastoni, Brozovic, and Co., but Vlahovic’s physical tools and wicked finishing will ensure that he only needs the slightest opening, the most overlooked of chances, to make his mark.