Juventus will play their biggest match since the 2015 Champions League final when they host Inter on Saturday in the Derby d’Italia.
There is much on the line for Juve. Not only have seen their fiercest rivals end their near decade-long dominance of Serie A, they also find themselves flirting with the very real possibility that they will not qualify for the Champions League next season. Indeed, regardless of what Juventus achieve on Saturday, they need favours elsewhere, although Atalanta, Milan and Napoli are all within striking distance.
And the Champions League is more important than ever to Juve, whose deep financial difficulties will only be magnified if they fail to reach the competition.
Head coach Andrea Pirlo is under more pressure than ever to succeed, and while a 3-1 victory over Sassuolo in midweek offered some respite, Juve’s form this season has simply not been good enough.
There has been some deflection of their issues in recent days, though, with Romelu Lukaku and several Inter team-mates not punished for a 3am gathering following a 3-1 win over Roma. Juve have grumbled that Weston McKennie and several team-mates were treated more harshly for a previous breach, though the Nerazzurri players were having dinner after the game and were legally within their rights.
Nevertheless, it is another element that adds spice to an affair that is always a feisty affair.
Juve were thumped 3-0 as recently as Sunday at home by Milan, and another such result would be catastrophic for them, probably ending their Champions League hopes and leaving Pirlo’s credibility as a head coach in tatters.
Inter counterpart Antonio Conte, meanwhile, will expect his side to keep their foot to the floor and increase Juve’s pain. A repeat of January 2-0 win would suit him just nicely.
Juventus have a fully fit squad to select from, while Inter are missing only Aleksandr Kolarov and Arturo Vidal, with Alexis Sanchez expected back in the fold. Lautaro Martinez was taken off in midweek for a lack of effort against Roma but should be retained after apologising for an outburst aimed towards Conte.