It’s no surprise that the contest between Serie A’s two most winningest outfits has been entrenched in controversy, drama and significance since journalist Gianni Brera dubbed the bout the Derby d’Italia (Derby of Italy) way back in 1967.
The fixture returns for yet another imperative iteration on Sunday night as Scudetto holders Inter Milan visit Turin looking to hold off Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus. Victory for the Bianconeri in this one will see them usurp the Nerazzurri in the Serie A table.
And while this weekend’s contest may not be between two sides at the apex of their powers, as has been the case in previous outings, the upcoming derby nonetheless has notable implications on the 2021/22 Scudetto race.
Inter, who were long considered the favourites to regain their crown before their recent demise, desperately need to claim their first win at the Allianz Stadium in a decade to keep in touching distance of crosstown rivals Milan at the summit. Juve, meanwhile, have emerged as outsiders for the title thanks to their 16-game unbeaten run in the league. For Allegri’s side, only a win will keep their faint hopes of regaining the Scudetto alive.
3 key battles that could decide the Derby d’Italia
It’s bound to be a tight contest with so much at stake, and here are three key battles that could decide the contest.
1. Max Allegri vs Marcelo Brozovic
Inter were handed a major injury boost in the week as Marcelo Brozovic returned to training following a few weeks out with a calf injury. Simone Inzaghi desperately missed the midfielder in recent draws to both Torino and Fiorentina, as Inter struggled to assert control in either contest for large swathes.
In short, Brozovic is one of the best midfielders around and while his genius has been appreciated among calcio lovers since Antonio Conte succeeded Luciano Spalletti, who oversaw the Croatian’s evolution from enigmatic playmaker to disciplined controller, he’s vastly underrated outside of Italy.
Nevertheless, Brozovic’s return is massive for the away side. The 29-year-old leads Inter with 74.3 completed and 6.71 progressive passes per 90 minutes in Serie A this season. He’s the lynchpin of this side; the key man in ensuring Inter control proceedings and progress upfield efficiently. Thus, Juventus will have to gameplan for him as they have done in the past.
Dejan Kulusevski performed a man-marking function on Brozovic for Andrea Pirlo last season, while Allegri has used a combination of ploys in a bid to nullify the Croatian in their two meetings this term. He’s been less willing to man-mark and keener to screen Brozovic. The midfielder’s brilliance at evading pressure and creating angles makes any plan tough to execute, though, and I’m so intrigued to see what the Juve boss conjures up this time around.
A lot depends on Juve’s out of possession structure: if it’s 4-3-3, expect Arthur Melo (or whoever is Juve’s deepest-lying midfielder) to squeeze up and harry Brozovic with Dusan Vlahovic attempting to cut out passing lanes into him. However, a 4-4-2 would likely result in plenty of screening and less man-marking. Juve don’t have a player capable of doing a man-marking job in their forward line.
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