PREVIEW: JUVENTUS WELCOME THE CONTE'S CHAMPIONS AS THE OLD LADY SEEK A WIN TO KEEP THEIR CHAMPIONS LEAGUE DREAMS ALIVE
The champions of Italy, Inter Milan, visit a Juventus side desperately seeking wins to move into Champions League qualification, as questions swirl around the futures of both manager Andrea Pirlo and star player Cristiano Ronaldo.
It has been a dream year of a dream season for Antonio Conte with Inter. His Inter side extended their unbeaten home streak to 15 in their midweek win against Roma. Their exquisite first half show provided them with enough of a cushion to thwart Roma’s second half advances before star striker Romelu Lukaku iced the game with his customary goal late on.
88 – Inter have earned 88 Serie A points this season, they have picked up more only in 2006/07 campaign (97) considering three points for a win since 1929/30. Vertigo.#InterRoma #SerieA pic.twitter.com/wrmXzybDMu
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) May 12, 2021
Conte will love to one-up his old side after his infamous falling out with president Andrea Agnelii and with Inter trotting out almost full strength lineups even after being champions, it will be a mammoth challenge to stop this juggernaut from picking up another win.
Juventus, meanwhile, have been having a very bad year. Andrea Pirlo’s team are currently 5th with Napoli one spot and one point above them. The Old Lady have utterly failed to reach the heights of their glory seasons of the past, suffering six defeats along the way. Their involvement in the now defunct European Super League brought unnecessary off-field issues which might continue into the next season with Juventus having been threatened with expulsion from the Serie A if they do not pull out.
⚽️⚽️⚽️ Three goals and an even bigger three points secured in #SassuoloJuve 👌
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) May 12, 2021
With two games to go for salvaging their season, the club’s Champions League fate is not in their hands especially after that 3-0 drubbing to AC Milan at home on Monday. Even after the midweek 3-1 win over Sassuolo, anything other than maximum points will relegate them to the Europa League.
Alexis Sanchez exited their last match with an apparent ankle issue and looks set to miss out. Lautaro Martinez, his substitute, suffered the ignominy of being substituted himself which saw a heated exchange between him and Conte on the touchline. Aleksandar Kolarov and Arturo Vidal remain unavailable due to injuries.
INTER MILAN PROBABLE LINE-UP: Radu; Bastoni, De Vrij, D’Ambrosio; Hakimi, Barella, Brozovic, Gagliardini, Young; Lukaku, Pinamonti
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) May 12, 2021
Pirlo’s side have no fresh injury concerns and will look to go with their strongest squad for this momentous clash.
JUVENTUS PROBABLE LINE-UP: Szczesny; Cuadrado, De Ligt, Demiral, Sandro; Chiesa, Arthur, Kulusevski, Bernardeschi; Morata, Ronaldo
Belgian attacker Romelu Lukau will once again be the key figurehead tasked with disrupting the Juventus backline. The forward is known for his physicality in one-on-one matchups and hold up play which will come in handy against the Juventus defenders who like to get closer to the ball.
Lukaku has hit 11 assists this season, tying Maicon (2009/10) for most from an Inter player in a Serie A season since Opta's started collecting the data (2004/05)
📊 stat via Opta pic.twitter.com/8AhfQs4Xb5
— Italian Football TV (@IFTVofficial) May 12, 2021
Lukaku is also adept at running in behind the last man which might force Pirlo to keep Chiellini and Bonucci on the bench for this fixture. Even his prowess in the air will be a handful, even during defending as he showed against Roma. With 22 goals and 11 assists already, Lukaku can definitely improve on those numbers against this wobbly Old Lady.
Cristiano Ronaldo will once again start as the leading light for Juventus in terms of goal. The Portuguese machine scored his 28th goal of the season against Sassuolo, which makes him almost certain to pick up the Golden Boot again. He also became the quickest Juventus player to reach 100 goals for the club and his aerial battles with the Inter backline will be a treat to watch as they did stop Roma from getting to a lot of headers.
Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 100+ goals for 4 different teams throughout his career:
🇵🇹 Portugal – 103
🏴 Man Utd – 118
🇪🇸 Real Madrid – 450
🇮🇹 Juventus – 100
Doing what he does best. ⚽️🐐 pic.twitter.com/rjxitIksET
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) May 12, 2021
Moreover, Ronaldo’s affinity to pull out wide, and attack while cutting inside will also somewhat limit the attacking intentions of Conte’s fullbacks. Inter will also need to close him down quickly around the penalty box, for Ronaldo will be desperate to not let his side miss out on a place amongst the continent’s elite come next season.
Given Juventus’ struggles this season, especially tactically, it will not come as a surprise if Inter race into a lead in this fixture. Conte’s side have shown they can defend leads well but the Old Lady’s frontline is not one to give up so easily. FootTheBall predicts a 2-2 draw between the teams.