Juve wary of Inter ahead of 'Derby d'Italia'
MILAN (AFP) –
Juventus striker Mirko Vucinic insists the champions will not take Inter Milan lightly when the sides meet in the much-anticipated Derby d’Italia on Saturday.
Juve top the Serie A table with a nine-point lead on Napoli with Milan in third, a further two points back with nine games remaining in the campaign.
Inter’s solid first half of the season has been replaced by inconsistency in recent months and although in fifth place Andrea Stramaccioni’s side are seven points behind Milan and the third and last Champions League qualifying spot.
They also welcome Juventus to the San Siro still smarting after several of their strong Latin American contingent were held up by flight delays while on international duty in midweek.
But Vucinic says Juve will be treating the clash like the “last game of their lives”.
He believes Inter could show the same grit and determination as they did recently when they overturned a 3-0 Europa League first leg defeat to Tottenham with a 4-1 second leg win, only to lose out on away goals.
“We’re playing against Inter, the name says it all,” Vucinic told juventus.com. “They’re a strong team and I don’t believe people who say that they’re struggling.”
The Montenegrin striker, who played in his country’s 1-1 draw against England in the World Cup qualifiers in midweek, added: “I saw the second leg against Tottenham and despite being written off, they nearly qualified after putting on a really proud performance.
“We have to concentrate solely on the match and play like it’s the last game of our lives.”
Inter silenced the doubters when they outclassed Juventus 3-1 in Turin in early November.
On that occasion Argentine Diego Milito scored a brace with Rodrigo Palacio hitting Inter’s third.
This time, however, Milito is sidelined with serious injury while Argentine star Palacio could be below par after playing against Bolivia at high altitude in La Paz.
Other Inter players have had it worse. Alvaro Pereira and Walter Gargano were among the Uruguayans, also including Napoli striker Edinson Cavani, left stranded in Chile after their flight was cancelled.
Colombian Fredy Guarin was an unused substitute in a 1-0 defeat away in Venezuela and has — like his club-mates — yet to arrive back in Italy.
While Stramaccioni should have no trouble firing up his players, defender Andrea Ranocchia believes it will take another Tottenham-like performance to claim their second win this season over the leaders.
“We won our first meeting with Juve this season and we hope to repeat that,” the Nerazzurri defender told inter.it.
“We’ll fight right down to the wire to get back into the Champions League. It’s a tough old battle for third place because there are lots of sides in the mix, but we’re in there too.”
Elsewhere Saturday Milan travel to Chievo with injury doubts over striker Giampaolo Pazzini and forward Kevin-Prince Boateng, who are suffering from ankle and muscle problems respectively.
Roma icon and captain Francesco Totti could be given a warm welcome, even by Palermo’s fans in Sicily on Saturday, after he celebrated his 20th year in Serie A on Thursday.
Napoli, meanwhile, will be desperate for Cavani to show. He is the league’s top scorer on 20 goals and will be hoping his latest travelling experience does not compound a season which has seen both him and Napoli blow hot and cold.
Fixtures (times GMT)
Atalanta v Sampdoria, Cagliari v Fiorentina, Genoa v Siena, Inter v Juventus, Lazio v Catania, Palermo v Roma, Parma v Pescara, Udinese v Bologna (all 1300), Chievo v AC Milan (1630), Torino v Napoli (1900)