The clash between the Serie A heavyweights brings together two sides on great runs and small margins could be key in deciding who takes the three points
By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Writer
As Italy's top two come head to head at Juventus Stadium on Saturday night, one fantastic streak has to end. Inter may have won eight straight games, but Juventus still haven't lost in 49 league matches, meaning the Bianconeri are the favourites to take the honours.
However, given that the two sides are placed first and second in the Serie A table right now, this is clearly likely to be a fixture decided by small factors, and Goal.com outlines five which will be particularly important in deciding the destination of the three points.
|JUVENTUS' FAST START
On balance, it is not something they have managed a lot under Antonio Conte, but when Juventus have truly hit the ground running, they have tended to blow sides away. Their three victories over Roma at Juventus Stadium in 2012 are evidence that a fast start on their behalf can be deadly, with the most recent clash with the Giallorossi possibly the best example.
Inter do not have the most stable of defences, despite their recent good run, and so a few moments of nervousness early on could have a psychological impact. If Juve can start quickly and open up the Nerazzurri a couple of times in the early stages, it may be enough to put them in the kind of position the visitors cannot come back from.
Last time the two sides met, Juve won it in the second half thanks largely to a double substitution and change of shape, but on this occasion, the responsibility could rest with the starting XI doing the job from the beginning to see the Bianconeri through.
|GIOVINCO GETTING THE NOD
He may have had a fairly stop-start campaign so far, but Sebastian Giovinco remains a one-off in Juventus' forward line. Mirko Vucinic, Fabio Quagliarella, Alessandro Matri and Nicklas Bendtner may offer more in other areas, but Giovinco has the ability that the others cannot provide. What he also has is a nuisance factor, particularly up against clumsy defenders.
Though Andrea Ranocchia may have started the 2012-13 season better than many expected - particularly since Andrea Stramaccioni began using a back three - he has also proven that he is still capable of switching off just long enough to make huge errors, with Sampdoria's opener on Wednesday a real case in point.
And with Giovinco likely to come in direct confrontation with his Italy international team-mate if he starts on Saturday night, the combination of the 'Atomic Ant's ability to twist defenders inside out and the defender's cumbersome gait when faced with tricky forwards could lead to all sorts of fun in the final third.
|INTER'S ABILITY TO HAVE A SAY IN MIDFIELD
It goes without saying that Juventus have the upper hand when it comes to the midfield. In Claudio Marchisio, Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo, they have an 'MVP' trio which has been practically untouchable for the past 15 months. Add in the recent form of Paul Pogba, and it's clear to see that Inter's staff in the middle of the park are going to have their work cut out for them.
The Bianconeri's midfield three have been at the heart of their pressing style under Antonio Conte, with their ability to ensure long spells of territorial advantage setting the platform for many of Juve's victories in their record run. The Beneamata's game is built not so much on the centre of the field, with territory less important to their attacking abilities.
The likely midfield trio of Esteban Cambiasso, Walter Gargano and Fredy Guarin must be on their guard to ensure that Juve's engine room do not get on top, but must also not be thrown off their game of quickly feeding attackers down the flanks and in the channels, which has been their most successful outlet for the most part this season.
Simply put, Antonio Cassano has fast become Inter's most important forward. With Wesley Sneijder missing over the last six weeks, the Nerazzurri could easily have been massively handicapped by the Dutchman's absence. Instead, they have continued to allow the former Sampdoria and Milan man to form the basis of their attacks.
When he has been on form, Inter have generally lorded it over the opposition. His effect has seen off the likes of Fiorentina, Catania and Sampdoria during the recent winning run his side have put together, and if the visitors are to have any chance of inflicting Juventus' first league defeat in 18 months, then the Italy forward is going to need to be at his very best.
That is where the question mark comes though. Cassano has been known as something of an enigma in the past, and he must ensure that tonight is not one of those occasions on which he goes missing, otherwise Inter will lose much of their attacking threat just when they need it.
|THE IN-GAME CHANGES
The double-substitution of Leonardo Bonucci and Alessandro Del Piero for Simone Pepe and Alessandro Matri, and subsequent switch to a back three, was the key moment in Juventus' 2-0 win over Inter in March. It was also seen as one of the pivotal decisions made by Antonio Conte in the run-in which would eventually see Juve collect 31 points from a possible 33 to lift the Scudetto.
Since then, of course, Conte has been suspended from matchday duties, leaving first Massimo Carrera and now Angelo Alessio with the task of making the right changes at the right times. And while Alessio was the man who threw on Martin Caceres and Paul Pogba to devastating effect against Napoli, he came under fire after failing to act quickly as the Old Lady dropped points against Nordsjaelland in the Champions League. In that sense, the jury is still out on Conte's right-hand man.
In the visitors' technical area tonight will be someone who has already become an in-game coach of some repute. Andrea Stramaccioni's ability to spot the need to change and do so quickly, whether that be in switching formation or introducing a substitute, has won over many 'floating voters' among Nerazzurri followers. And if Inter can weather the early storm at Juventus Stadium, then there are plenty of Interistiwho will be backing their man to outwit his opposite number in the tactical department.