Juventus and Inter Milan lock horns on Sunday evening in what is sure to be a hotly contested Derby d’Italia.
The two sides are separated by just six points in second and third place respectively, although Inter have a game in hand over their fierce rivals.
Both will be eager to pick up the points as the Serie A title race hots up and current leaders Lazio will also be keeping a close eye on the game.
Where to watch Juventus v Inter Milan on TV:
UK: Premier Sports 1
Where to stream the Derby d’Italia:
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Serie A title race hots up
Such is the state of modern football in Europe, we’ve become disappointingly accustomed to absolute domination by the continent’s superpowers, with the likes of Juventus, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain mopping up titles with barely a suggestion of a challenge. This season, that has all been thrown out of the window.
As it stands in Italy, Lazio sit atop the Serie A table but Juventus could once again land back on their perch with a win over Inter on Sunday.
However, should Antonio Conte’s men leave Turin victorious, they’ll move to within just three points of the Old Lady with a game in hand, while closing the gap on Lazio to just five points — again, with a game in hand.
The Serie A title race hasn’t been this close in years and regardless of the result on Sunday, the shockwaves will be felt throughout the Italian top-flight.
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Can Cristiano Ronaldo continue to carry Juventus?
To say Juve are a one-man band would be ridiculous — in the likes of Paulo Dybala, Aaron Ramsey and Leonardo Bonucci et al, Maurizio Sarri has enough talent on his hands to beat any side on the planet.
That said, you can’t get away from the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo is on 21 Serie A goals, a huge 15 clear of his closest teammate, Dybala. The former Real Madrid man has picked Juve up on his back and charged forward.
The Portuguese legend has scored in each of his last nine domestic games — netting 13 times during that run — and is responsible for 44% of Juve’s Serie A goals. Only Lazio’s Ciro Immobile (45%) has made a bigger single contribution to his team.
If Ronaldo has an off-day, Inter have a real chance of leaving Turin with all three points but you can safely assume that fact won’t be lost on the man himself.
Ex-Premier League brigade to have a big say?
It seems like a lifetime ago that Ronaldo was tearing the Premier League apart with Manchester United, but there are plenty of players on both sides who recently graced the English top-flight, all of whom could have a big say on the outcome of this clash.
Ramsey is yet to truly find his best form in a Juventus shirt but is a match-winner on his day while ex-Chelsea striker Gonzalo Higuain has seven goals in 10 career appearances against Inter.
On the other side, Conte has fleshed his squad out with Premier League imports. Chief among them is Romelu Lukaku, who has made a blistering start to his Inter career with 17 Serie A goals so far and 23 across all competitions.
Wing-backs Ashley Young and Victor Moses have both already notched assists since joining from Man Utd and Chelsea, respectively, and offer Inter great width, while Christian Eriksen has come close to opening his account with the Nerazzurri on a number of occasions.
And, not to forget Alexis Sanchez. Sure, the Chilean is unlikely to start, but remains a great option from the bench and he’ll be high on confidence after putting in a superb performance against Ludogorets in the Europa League last time out.
Can Conte overcome Sarri?
Given their respective standings in Italian and European football, it seems absurd that Sarri and Conte have only met once as managers so far.
Sarri came out on top earlier this season, guiding his Juventus side to a 2-1 victory, and the importance of this second fixture hasn’t been lost on the former Napoli manager.
“This is the most prestigious match in Serie A for its history and for the teams, and this season also for the standings,” he said recently. “After two important transfer markets, Inter have become a favourite for the league, just like us. It’s going to be a good match.”
Given the tactical prowess of both Sarri and Conte, it’s impossible to predict who will come out on top this time. The two former Chelsea bosses are brilliant students of the game and regardless of the outcome, we’re bound to be treated to an intense, intriguing affair.