PRE-MATCH: JUVENTUS VS INTER

Having deposed their bitter foes as Serie A champions just a week ago, Inter Milan now meet a crestfallen Juventus side on Saturday evening, in the Derby d'Italia


While the Nerazzurri will seek to seal a league double over their Turin rivals and confirm their current supremacy, Juve simply must win to stay in the hunt for a return to the Champions League next season.


The last time these two giants of Calcio faced each other in the league, it was Inter who came out on top - beating Juventus 2-0 in a calculating display of their title credentials back in January.


Though the Bianconeri subsequently ended Antonio Conte's side's hopes of a domestic double by knocking them out of the Coppa Italia, it has been the Milan side who have since streaked clear of the field to claim a first Scudetto in over a decade - satisfyingly denying Juve a 10th consecutive crown in the process.


Conte and company have shown no signs of taking their foot off the accelerator since securing their 19th league title, with the taciturn coach even seeing fit to take off substitute Lautaro Martinez in Wednesday's 3-1 defeat of Roma due to perceived lack of effort - much to the Argentinian striker's obvious dismay.

Nonetheless, the pair have since been seen "sparring" at the club's training ground, in a jokey video posted on social media; apparently demonstrating the buoyant mood in the camp ahead of the trip to Turin.


Still unbeaten in the league since early January, having registered 15 wins and four draws since their long-distant last defeat, Inter have won their two games since their confirmation as champions by an aggregate score of eight goals to two and are currently on a streak of four successive Serie A victories.


Should they win their two remaining games, they would set their second-best tally in a Serie A season, behind only the 97 posted during the 2006-07 campaign - while Juventus were relegated in the so-called scandal. But that's an article for another day.


The Nerazzurri have also conceded only 31 goals in 36 matches so far, which reflects the relentless work ethic Conte has instilled in his tight-knit team this season. So, even with the title secured, Juve should expect an intense encounter on Saturday evening.


When Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo was comprehensively outmaneuvered by his former boss Antonio Conte in the first national 'Derby' this season, the Old Lady's experiment of placing the legendary midfield maestro in the Allianz Stadium dugout began to look incautious at best.


Since that time, his Juve side has slumped to a series of humbling results and must now rely on others' misfortunes to help them retain a Champions League place which had apparently become a given since they kicked off nine years of unbroken domestic success in 2012.

The latest damaging display came in a 3-0 loss to top-four rivals Milan last Sunday - since only part-negated by a 3-1 win at Sassuolo in midweek, which owed much to their hosts' profligacy, including Domenico Berardi's missed first-half penalty.


Just three wins from their last six leave Juventus sitting fifth in the Serie A Standings, and only the fact that direct rivals Atalanta and Milan must meet on the final day - with points inevitably being dropped as a result - can provide Pirlo's men with some solace ahead of a critical week for the club.


After iconic goalkeeper Gigi Buffon last week announced he would be leaving Juve for a second and final time - and added yet another moment to his vast archive of match-saving interventions made over the years by saving Berardi's spot-kick - only a Derby d'Italia win would represent a fitting end to the evergreen 43-year-old's time in Turin.


However, Juventus - who face Atalanta in the Coppa Italia final next week, before visiting Bologna on the final day - are low on confidence and cohesion, while Inter would love nothing better than keeping them out of Europe's elite for next season.






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