By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Writer
Such has been Juventus’ dominance of Serie A in 2012-13, there were only really two targets in mind for the Bianconeri as they reunited after the latest international break. The first was to keep ticking off the points they need to wrap up a second successive Scudetto, while the second was to gain revenge on an Inter side that ended their 49-game unbeaten run in November.
And on Saturday afternoon they got 50 per cent of those tasks out of the way, seeing off the Nerazzurri at San Siro after a very accomplished performance. This was by no means Juve’s most convincing display of the season, and Inter had a number of chances to make the game interesting throughout, but the champions did everything they needed to do to leave the Beneamata a long way off the pace in the struggle for European football next term. As revenge missions go, this one was hugely successful.
Andrea Stramaccioni’s side now sit in seventh place in the table, 10 points behind third-placed AC Milan with eight games remaining. If they are to qualify for the Champions League they need a miracle, while even a return to the Europa League is a possibility more than a probability at the moment. An Inter outfit that had hoped for a top-three spot, and earlier in the campaign offered the closest thing Juventus have seen to a challenge all season, now finds itself struggling even to match their ‘achievements’ of last term.
They actually played pretty well on Saturday, and when Rodrigo Palacio cancelled out Fabio Quagliarella’s early belter it appeared that deja vu might bring down Juve, but Alessandro Matri soon struck back, and by the end it was clear they had been beaten by a better side playing a couple of gears short of the pace they’ll look to reach come Tuesday night against Bayern Munich.
|MATCH FACTS | Inter 1-2 Juventus
Another encouraging display from Mateo Kovacic was about all they could add to the plus column after such a result, along with Roma’s shock 2-0 defeat at Palermo which means their Europa League hopes aren’t completely dead and buried. Meanwhile, Juve managed to edge three points closer to an inevitable title while keeping something in reserve for their huge fixture in midweek.
They will make the trip to Munich for their Champions League quarter-final first leg clash with a great deal of confidence on the back of this win, and while many may argue that Bayern’s astonishing 9-2 victory over Hamburg could be even more of a fillip to the home side, Antonio Conte’s men will surely take great satisfaction from having dealt with a Derby d’Italia with little fuss just three days before their biggest fixture of the season.
As we head into April, Juve are nine points clear of the pack, have a squad deep in numbers and high in confidence, and begin the final throes of the Champions League with a head completely clear of any worries about what’s going on back in Italy. They wanted revenge on Inter, and they got it. Now they can take on Bayern knowing everything is falling neatly into place for them.
Juventus are as prepared as they could ever hope to be going into their biggest fixture of the season. Bring on Bayern!
- Milan’s complaint to the Lega Serie A over the farce that has been the handling of the safety concerns at Cagliari’s Is Arenas was completely justified, but the benefits of playing against no home crowd were clearly lost on Fiorentina as they went down to a 2-1 defeat in Sardinia which all but expunges their hopes of making it into the top three. The Rossoneri had to take on the Rossoblu in front of a packed stadium earlier this season, while there have been various different measures enforced by the league committee for many games this term. While Milan were right to voice their ire, it appears unlikely to affect them directly following the defeat of Vincenzo Montella’s side which puts the Diavolo in a fantastic position to qualify for the Champions League come May.
- April Fools’ Day came a couple of days early in Sicily as relegation-threatened Palermo made idiots out of Roma. It was only the fourth victory of the season for the Rosanero, and Josip Ilicic and Fabrizio Miccoli’s goals have thrown them a lifeline in their battle for survival. But it was also a noticeable setback for the Giallorossi after an excellent recent run under Aurelio Andreazzoli had looked set to leave them level with neighbours Lazio heading into next week’s Derby della Capitale. Instead they turned in their worst performance since the 4-2 home defeat to Cagliari which earned Zdenek Zeman the sack. While this result won’t mean a similar fate for Andreazzoli, it does provide a jolt to his hopes of becoming the club’s permanent boss in the summer.
- Napoli managed to lose two leads and then fall behind before eventually wrapping up a thrilling 5-3 victory against Torino at the Olimpico. Edinson Cavani may have come off the bench to hit the goals which settled the contest, but it was Blerim Dzemaili who was the real hero for the Partenopei. The Swiss midfielder is hardly a regular goal threat from the centre of the park, but his hat-trick proved to be vital in his side maintaining their hopes of holding off Milan for second spot in the table and the automatic Champions League spot that comes with it. The difference between an assured place and a play-off berth could decide whether Cavani stays or goes in the summer, making Napoli's run-in perhaps the most important of any club in the top half of Serie A.