The Serie A title credentials of Inter Milan and Juventus will be on the line on Sunday as two giants of Italian football face off in a San Siro showdown.
Holding a one-point lead and a game in hand, Inter will have more than 70,000 fans roaring them on at a “Derby of Italy” which could define their season.
Simone Inzaghi’s side have been the country’s best since the start of the season and are rightly looking down on the rest of the league with comfortably the best attack and best defence.
Inter have collected 54 points from their 21 matches, just two fewer than reigning champions Napoli had at the same stage last season before running away with a historic Scudetto.
As a reward Inzaghi gave his players two days off after last weekend’s 1-0 win at Fiorentina “as they deserve it”.
Juve have proven extremely hard to shake off, a team which has the knack of getting results regardless of performances.
However Massimiliano Allegri’s side, who are unbeaten since September, were held by lowly Empoli last weekend and haven’t faced a team in the top half of Serie A since the turn of the year.
Allegri has Dusan Vlahovic in hot scoring form while France midfielder Adrien Rabiot and Federico Chiesa both return from injury just in time for the biggest match of Juve’s season so far.
“Nobody expected us to be in this position at the start of the season and a draw should not cause us to lose confidence. You cannot win every game,” said Allegri.
Inzaghi meanwhile has a practically full squad to pick from, with former Juve wing-back Juan Cuadrado the only player unavailable for Sunday.
Hakan Calhanoglu and Nicolo Barella return from suspension while Federico Dimarco will reclaim his spot at left wing-back after sitting out the Fiorentina win.
A four-point cushion would be very handy as next week Inter travel to Roma while Juve host struggling Udinese, while what promises to be a brutal Champions League tie with Atletico Madrid looms later in the month.
Atalanta will defend their spot in Italy’s top four when they host Lazio just before the Inter and Juve face off, as a clutch of clubs battle for Champions League football.
Lazio sit seventh but are only two points behind Atalanta, as are Fiorentina who are at Lecce on Friday, while Roma trail Gian Piero Gasperini’s side by a single point and host relegation-threatened Cagliari on Monday night.
Player to watch: Hakan Calhanoglu
He may not make as many headlines as star striker Lautaro Martinez but Calhanoglu has a good claim to be Inter’s stand-out player so far this season.
Inzaghi has shifted Calhanoglu to a deeper midfield playmaker role and the Turkey captain has responded with some of the best football of his career.
The 29-year-old has scored 11 times in all competitions and set up three more, and his return from suspension will be a huge boost for Inter as they look to assert their dominance over Juve.
1 – Inter lead Juve by a single point and have one game in hand.
7 – The gap separating Serie A’s leading goalscorer Martinez from Juve’s Vlahovic
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Lecce v Fiorentina (1945)
Empoli v Genoa, Udinese v Monza (1400), Frosinone v AC Milan (1700), Bologna v Sassuolo (1945)
Torino v Salernitana (1130), Napoli v Verona (1400), Atalanta v Lazio (1700), Inter v Juventus (1945)
Roma v Cagliari (1945)
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