Inter v Juventus: Is Conte's new-club juggernaut in full flow with the Nerazzurri?
One thing you could never accuse Antonio Conte of is shying away from a challenge.
Conte has a history of taking on projects that, from the outside looking in, appear unfavourable to say the least.
The fiery Italian delivered Serie A and Premier League titles, in his first campaigns at Juventus and Chelsea respectively, against the odds.
These are the formative days of his Inter tenure, but the initial signs suggest that history could be repeating itself as Conte attempts to end a Juve dynasty he himself set in motion.
So crucial to the aforementioned successes were hugely impressive undefeated streaks that defined his triumphs.
With six wins from six league matches, Inter fans can be forgiven for dreaming that the Conte affect is happening at San Siro.
This weekend, Juventus travel to Milan for what is undoubtedly the biggest domestic test Inter have faced in the fledgling Conte's era.
Ahead of such a blockbuster fixture, Omnisport has taken a look at Conte's previous new-club juggernauts.
2 - Inter have won each of their first six games in a single Serie A campaign for only the second time in their history (the first in 1966/67). Army. #SampdoriaInter— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) September 28, 2019
Not even the bravest of gamblers would have predicted the sort of impact Conte had upon his return to Juve as head coach in May 2011. After gaining promotion back to the top flight four years previously, having been demoted for their part in the Calciopoli scandal, the Bianconeri set about competing at the top immediately by finishing third and second in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 campaigns.
But when Conte walked back through the doors in Turin, Juventus were at a low ebb, having recorded back-to-back seventh-placed finishes. It was in this context we first witnessed Conte's uncanny ability to turn underachievers into title winners.
Defensive solidity, tactical nous and quick transitions – all Conte trademarks – were to the fore as Juve went unbeaten in Serie A. A tendency to draw looked as though it could derail their aspirations – there were 15 in all from 38 matches and AC Milan actually won more games - but their defence was breached just 20 times in 38 matches. An outstanding end to the season, which saw Juve win 10 of their final 11 games, including a run of eight in a row, emphatically settled the issue and sparked the start to an era of dominance that has returned eight straight titles.
Fast forward to 2016 and it must have felt a little like 'Groundhog Day' for Conte when he took the reins at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea were a club in disarray having finished the 2015-16 season in 10th place, just a year on from winning the Premier League under Jose Mourinho.
A team seemingly split and at odds with one another, Mourinho was sacked in December 2015 with the Blues in 16th position. Guus Hiddink steered the club through choppy waters to the end of the campaign, but any notion Conte could make Chelsea title contenders again seemed fanciful at best. Back-to-back losses against Liverpool and Arsenal in September did little to change that thinking.
But a switch to his trademark three-man defence proved a tactical masterstroke as Londoners embarked upon a then-record winning run of 13 matches in the Premier League. Chelsea would suffer three more defeats, but just one in the last nine games – a run of six straight victories crowning a memorable title triumph.
| GOOD NIGHT ALL— Inter (@Inter_en) September 28, 2019
THE DREAM START pic.twitter.com/v2ak8z6GxG
COMPARISONS TO JOSE?
Inter's golden era in the middle-to-late part of the past decade seems like a lifetime ago. Luciano Spalletti secured fourth-place finishes in his two seasons in charge, but the gap to Juventus remained sizeable – 21 points separated the teams last term. It is a challenge tailor-made for Conte and the early signs are positive, with a 100 per cent record in Serie A including a 2-0 derby win over AC Milan.
Juve are undoubtedly on another level to Inter's embattled neighbours, but with games against Sassuolo, Parma, Brescia, Bologna, Hellas Verona, Torino and SPAL to follow there is an opportunity, on paper at least, for another memorable Conte run.
An interesting point of reference is Inter's starts under Jose Mourinho during his two campaigns at San Siro. The Nerazzurri lost just one of their opening 18 Serie A matches – a derby defeat in September – during the 08-09 campaign and cantered to the title by 10 points. It was a similar story 12 months later, where Mourinho oversaw a famous treble campaign, as Inter lost just once in the first 15 matches of the season.