After a fiery affair in the Derby della Capitale all eyes shifted to Milan for the late Serie A match. This edition of the Derby d’Italia between Inter and Juventus promised to be exciting, both squads needing to get a result.
On the line for Inter, a chance to increase their comfort levels with a race for Champions League spots heating up. On the flip side, Juventus were looking to continue their impressive from since the turn of the calendars and push to erase the impacts of the fifteen-point deduction handed to the Bianconeri earlier in the campaign.
Many wrote Juventus off in terms of having a chance to contest for Champions League sports after the deduction, citing the only way they would qualify, or the premier completion is through Europa league success. Especially after Roma dropped points earlier, the race for that fourth Champions League spot is going to come down to the end of the season.
Inter have been good at home throughout the campaign but have been struggling as of late. In their last four matches they have only managed to win one, and it was against promoted side Lecce. Their opposition however have been doing better, having won four of their last five. Additionally, Juventus seem to have found their identity again since recovering from a rocky start to the season. Massimiliano Allegri’s side have not lost a match after scoring the first goal. This defensive resoluteness would be a decisive factor in the match.
Initially, both teams set up in a three in the back shape. Inter had two out and out strikers with Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez. This 3-5-2 is nothing new for Simone Inzaghi’s side as it is the shape he has employed all season. Both teams were dealing with their share of injuries which impacted the starting lineups. However, Inter were missing two key pieces to their back three as Milan Skriniar and Alessandro Bastoni are both expected to be out for the foreseeable future.
Juventus also started the match with a three in the back and a bank of five across the midfield. However, their forwards were staggered with Dusan Vlahovic playing as a target man, while the young Argentine Matias Soulé sat deeper playing more as a number ten role.
Inter started the match brightly using the width and playing directly to create good chances early. However, Juventus did not sit back, and they were committed to creating their own scoring opportunities. Despite being a controversial goal, Juventus broke to tie open within the first half an hour. Filip Kostic, who is known for his deliveries into the box rather than his goal scoring prowess, fired home the game’s only goal.
Disregarding the potential handball in the buildup to the play, Inter deserved to be punished for their lack of cohesive defense in the play. Kostic was allowed way too much time and space in the box. When he collected the ball, he took a touch and set himself to cross, but was almost surprised he was not closed down quicker. Realizing the opportunity, he turned his eyes to goal. If a snapshot was taken right when Adrien Rabiot released the ball, Inter had four players around him watching the ball, and no one covering either wide player. Therefore, even if Kostic was closed down, he would have been able to play a dangerous ball into the back post where Nicoló Fagioli had an acre of space.
From that point, Juventus played like a classic Allegri outfit. Juventus proceeded to sit in a low block and made it difficult for Inter to generate good chances. Despite dominating possession, Inter had to settle for long range efforts, and hopeful crosses into the box.
Gleison Bremer matched Lukaku physically perfectly making the Belgian international’s life extremely difficult. Additionally, Federico Gatti showed shades of the many great Juventus defenders before him. At moments, Gatti was seen cheering slide tackles and headed clearances.
The passion for defending also translated to the midfield three. Manuel Locatelli, Fagioli, and Rabiot controlled space extremely well despite not having much of the ball. This is what allowed Juventus to control the midfield, even though they saw less than a third of total possession.
The midfield battle was really fascinating because, as mentioned, Juventus did win it despite being severely out-possessed. This was the case because all three payers for Juventus took different jobs, but also covered one another when someone went forward.
Locatelli did much of the dirty work, putting in tackles, sitting back, absorbing pressure. However, when he committed forward, like for instance the chance he almost bundled home off of Federico Chiesa’s cross, Fagioli quickly covered his role hanging back. This awareness of each players positioning is what prevented Juventus from playing through the low block on a quick counterattack.
Without a technical dribbler to break the lines, Inter were at times disconnected, and thus had to settle for launching cross after cross into the box. Additionally, Juventus counterattacked well in the second half, and may have been unlucky not to get a second.
Moving forward, Inter are causing many to be concerned. The rampant inconsistency in matches is not the side of a team that is favored to win anything. Before the season began, many looked to Inter as title contenders, and the campaign has fallen short.
While many may look at the draw against Benfica and think it is the most favorable opponent at this stage in the Champions League, Inter need to proceed with caution. The Portuguese side is extremely strong and Inter showed many cracks in their match last night. Inzaghi needs to get the tactics right as the first match of the tie is in Portugal and Inter have not traveled well this season.
As for Juventus, with performances like this against the clubs also contesting the European places they may just be able to do the impossible and make up the gap the points deduction left. The Old Lady is showing why they have been the dominant club throughout the history of calcio, because when faced with adversity they have always risen to the challenge.