To say the Derby d’Italia is a fiesty affair would not do it justice. On numerous occasions, controversies have spilled from the pitch and onto the stands and sometimes even the Italian Parliament.
Who could forget the aftermath of their title decider in 1998? With three games left Inter were a solitary point behind Juventus.
With the match poised at 1-0, Ronaldo was body checked by Mark Iuliano in the area. Incredibly the referee, Piero Ceccarini, denied the Serpenti a spot kick. Insult to injury was provided 20 seconds later as the Bianconeri charged up the other end only for Taribo West to bundle Del Piero over and Ceccarini this time pointed to the spot. Del Piero missed the resultant kick but it did not stop the Turin giants holding on to all but clinch another Scudetto.
The match sparked apoplectic reactions from Inter and the controversy even surfaced in Parliament. Domenico Gramazio and Massimo Mauro, former Juventus player turned politician, came to blows during Prime Minister’s question time, which led to the session being suspended.
Add to this the bad blood over the Calciopoli investigation has only strengthened the divisions between the clubs. However there has been a huge effort made on both sides to quell the animosity and defuse the potentially explosive match.
Juventus have cancelled their normal press conference and no staff members are speaking to journalists. Inter have been very careful to focus on their own form and preparations. Morratti was offered a seat in Turin by his opposite number Andrea Agnelli, but politely refused on the basis of not creating any more tension or pressure.
Inter’s return to prominence has raised expectations for the latest instalment. This post-Mourinho era has been a tough one for the Nerazzurri and has seen them go through four managers in the last two seasons – the last of which was the coaching ‘go to man’ that is Claudio Ranieri.
Moratti recognised the spirit and hunger was missing since the departure of the self anointed ‘Special One’ and in an attempt to freshen things up he made the bold decision of replacing Ranieri with 36-year-old Andrea Stramaccioni from their Primavera side for his first senior coaching role. The swap was confirmed just a day after the youngster won the NextGen Series Final in London with Inter’s youth side, a match Moratti chose to attend instead of the Derby d’Italia which was played that night.
Since Pep Guardiola’s sensational success with Barcelona, a host of clubs have attempted to promote young, untested coaches at the earliest opportunity. Ferrara at Juventus and Enrique at Roma are clear warnings against such an approach, unless the individual has demonstrated the skills and personality necessary. As of yet, with a 65% winning record, Stramaccioni has shown in a short period he may be ready beyond his years for the task ahead.
Stramaccioni did not instigate this summer’s moulting of players; some of whom had helped deliver the unforgettable treble of 2010. Moratti oversaw a reduction of the wage bill while removing stars he felt had become dead wood. Julio Ceasar, Cordoba, Maicon and Lucio all left along with Diego Forlan (who sadly emulated his Manchester experience rather than his fantastic Spanish odyssey) all departed the San Siro. Even with this overhaul, Stamaccioni has successfully moulded a team who are threatening to be the No.2 challenger to Juventus.
The turning point this season was their triumph in the Derby Della Madonnina. An early strike by Walter Samuel gave Inter something to protect when they were reduced to ten men at the start of the second half. The Nerazzurri have recorded six league wins on the bounce and are as yet unbeaten on the road. The controversial Antonio Cassano has struck up an impressive partnership with Diego Milito which has seen them return ten goals and four assists to give a real potency up top.
We have been here before already this season. Only three weeks ago, Napoli came north to take on the Old Lady and many people expected fireworks with a possible upset on the cards. Neither materialised. Instead it was another statement of the indomitable spirit Antonio Conte has fostered in Turin.
Juventus have been ferocious in their pursuit of points, only once being denied maximum points in Florence. Wednesday night began to look like we would witness points dropped when Bologna’s Saphir Sliti Taïder cancelled out Fabio Quagliarella opener. However, the vastly promising Paul Pogba produced a dramatic late winner (further evidence of why Sir Alex was so annoyed at his United departure).
In the previous Juve were fortunate not to be punished by AC Milan for 15 draws and the Zebras needed to start turning draws into victories. While they still struggle to rectify this in the Champions League (they have drawn their last 8 CL appearances) the Bologna result highlights a new found ruthlessness. Great sides show improvement year on year and Juventus are providing a persuasive argument that they are just that.
The next step would be to find the jewel they have been searching for to compliment the existing squad. However, while rumours fly about Llorente, Villa and Dzeko, Pirlo and Co. are getting on with winning games. With Conte returning to the bench next month and murmurs of a top drawer striker arriving in January flying around, the rest of Italy must fear another spell of black and white domination.
That though is for another day. Week 11 will not settle anything long term but it is opportunity for Inter to make a statement of intent. But can you really bet against Juventus making it a magnificent 50 unbeaten with a dramatic and controversial win?
This writer thinks not.