Juve’s credentials face test with visit to old foes Inter
Juventus’ new found solidity will be put to the test on Sunday when they face Serie A champions Inter Milan at the San Siro in the ‘Derby of Italy’, traditionally the biggest domestic fixture of the season.
Inter dethroned fierce rivals Juve last season, prompting the ‘Old Lady’ of Italian football to bring back Massimiliano Allegri as coach in the hope of returning to the top following an underwhelming campaign under Andrea Pirlo.
After a miserable start to the season which included the sudden departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, Juventus have got back to their cynical best, eking out a run of results which have moved them to within one point of the Champions League places and three from third-placed Inter.
Wednesday’s 1-0 win at Zenit Saint Petersburg, which put Juve to within touching distance of the Champions League last 16, was their fourth single-goal victory in a row in all competitions, a run started with their shock defeat of European champions Chelsea last month.
However, despite a six-match winning streak performances have been more dogged than exciting, with both Allegri and match winner Dejan Kulusevski criticising their own display in Russia as “very bad”.
Now Juve have probably their toughest match of the season so far at the San Siro against holders Inter, who reignited their own Champions League campaign with an impressive 3-1 win over surprise package Sheriff Tiraspol on Tuesday.
It’s the first real test of their credentials as although they were beaten at league leaders Napoli -- who they still trail by 10 points early last month they were missing a host of players who came back late from international duty.
This time they are hoping for the return of Paulo Dybala, who provides much of Juve’s attacking spark and who Allegri said on Tuesday could play a part at Inter after nearly a month on the sidelines with a thigh injury.
Simone Inzaghi meanwhile has almost a full squad to pick from and will stick with a league-leading attack which has rattled in 23 goals in eight matches.
A bumper Sunday starts with Roma hosting Napoli, with Jose Mourinho’s side looking to bounce back from their defeat at Juve last weekend.
Napoli will defend their perfect record of eight wins from as many games at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, aiming for another victory which would give them a club record number of consecutive wins from the start of a season.
Meanwhile on Saturday night second-placed AC Milan travel to Bologna after slumping to a painful defeat at Porto which leaves their Champions League hopes hanging by a thread.
Nigeria striker Osimhen has been in red-hot form this season, netting five times in his seven Serie A appearances and scoring the only goal late in last weekend’s 1-0 home win over Torino which maintain their 100 percent record.
The 22-year-old is at his best after struggling with injuries last season and will be key to Napoli’s chance at Roma, who need a win against direct rival after painful losses to Lazio and Juve in recent weeks. -AFP