'Compleanno da capolista!' reads the headline on the official Juventus site. The Bianconeri journey began in 1897, 29 Scudetti, 2 Champions League titles, 3 UEFA Cups, 9 Italian Cups, 9 Ballon d'Or winners and 114 years later, they are again in the midst of a purple patch. The Derby d'Italia needs no introduction. One of the fiercest rivalries in European football, the mere mention of Inter-Juventus is enough to have many fans salivating with excitement. The latest instalment did little to disappoint, with the boys from Turin coming away from San Siro with all three points while sending Inter a step closer to Serie B. Having already conquered the defending champions from Milan, another encouraging result has seen many pundits proclaim that the Old Lady is now window shopping for a classy frock ahead of receiving her Scudetto crown.
The derby represents an opportunity for the tifosi to enjoy a sense of revenge over the old enemy. With off-field hatred well documented, beating the Nerazzurri represents more than just the three points. Goals from Mirko Vucinic and Claudio Marchisio either side of a Maicon strike ensured Antonio Conte’s men remain top of the pile nine games in, and having enjoyed success over Fiorentina in mid-week, it rounds off an almost perfect week for the Turin giants. However, (unfortunately there is a however), let’s put the champagne on ice as there is not only a long way to go but there is plenty more to prove.
Admittedly, any win over the Milanese duo are impressive results, particularly considering the way in which those wins were attained from a performance point of view. Full of grit, determination and a willingness to restore pride to the Juve shirt, it has all the trademarks of a typical Conte-influenced side. However, it’s still far too early to consider Juve as genuine contenders. The Bianconeri overcame Milan at a difficult period for Massimiliano Allegri’s men, with their early season form reminiscent of that of Cesena. While Sinisa Mihajlovic had troubles of his own ahead of the Viola’s trip to Turin, there is no hiding the fact Inter currently have serious problems domestically. Deserved or opportunistic, wins are wins and thus you can only beat what’s put in front of you. The issue arises when taking into consideration the draws against Bologna, Catania, Chievo and Genoa. This weekend represents a huge test for both Conte and the players. Juventus travel to Naples on Sunday, and despite their issues with consistency, Napoli at the San Paolo will undoubtedly be the biggest test so far this season. There are still trips to the capital, to face both Lazio and Roma, and to Udine before the winter break arrives, only then will we have a realistic idea of how far the squad has come and where it could potentially go.
“Juve have returned after a long time away, while Milan are back to their best after struggling in pre-season. The two teams will fight for the title until the very end” said Marcello Lippi earlier this week. Only a few weeks ago he prophesied Napoli would be the Rossoneri’s closest rivals, providing the perfect example that things can change very quickly as Walter Mazzarri’s men no longer even get a mention. Undoubtedly Juve will be up there, but it’s a top-three finish that should be the priority, with a Scudetto triumph an after-thought until next year when we enter the business end of the season. Talk that the title is destined to go to Turin at such an early stage of the season is almost as far-fetched as talk of Inter being relegated, with the latter on balance a more realistic prospect.
What are your thoughts on Juve’s start to the season? Are they already genuine title contenders or have they yet to prove so?
Last but not least, a quick mention for Milan ace Antonio Cassano. Putting aside the various rumours surfacing about his mystery illness, I would like to wish him a speedy recover. Let’s hope we see ‘Fantantonio’ back on the pitch in the near future, regardless of club allegiance, the world of Serie A is a much better place with the Bari-native on our screens every weekend.
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