Inter’s chance to show they can end the hegemony

ITALY has needed a team to seriously challenge Juventus for almost a decade and Inter Milan have started the Serie A campaign as if they mean to fill that role. Although some people are suggesting that six wins out of six have flattered the Nerrazzuri, the club seems to have been rejuvenated by the arrival of Antonio Conte.

This weekend (October 6), Inter play host to Juventus for a Derby d’Italia clash that has a little extra spice. It’s champions versus challengers and Inter know that if they fail to impress, confidence in them being able to win their first title since 2010 will start to evaporate.

Inter’s record against Juve over the past decade is not good – three wins in 20 Serie A games, two at the San Siro, and six draws. Juve have won 11.

Antonio Conte has the chance this season to stop Juve’s relentless pursuit of domestic silverware, something no other coach has been able to do since 2011-12. It was Conte who effectively began the club’s domination of Italian football.

These are exciting times for Inter as the club desperately tries to recapture former glories. Italian football needs a more competitive division after eight seasons in which Juventus have won every league title and the last five Coppa Italia finals, in addition to reaching two UEFA Champions League finals.

Inter remain the best supported club in terms of match attendances, with this season’s average up 50 more than 59,000. There will be over 70,000 in the San Siro for the clash with Juventus.

While Inter, driven by Conte’s characteristic intensity, have made a near-faultless start to the season, it is premature to herald the dawn of a new era of success. But a win against Juve will give them a five-point lead over the champions.

Conte has stamped his authority on the club, allowing players like Icardi, Nainggolan and Perisic to leave Inter. In their place, he has brought in the veteran Diego Godin from Atlético Madrid, Stefano Sensi and Matteo Politano from Sassuolo, Nico Barella from Cagliari as well as Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku for € 65 million. Alexi Sanchez has also joined and had a mixed debut, scoring and earning a red card.

On paper, though, Juventus still look stronger, although six of their team are over 30 years of age and only two, Matthijs De Ligt and Adrien Rabiot, are under 25. Just how long can players like Gigi Buffon and Cristiano Ronaldo continue to be effective?  Inter also have their over-30 contingent, notably goalkeeper Samir Handanović (35), Godin (33), Antonio Candreva (32) and Danilo D’Ambrosia (31).

Off the field, Inter have just announced they generated record revenues of € 415 million for the 2018-19 season, a 20% increase on the previous financial year. The club expects to post a small loss for 2018-19. The revenue growth is a very positive story, but the future could be very interesting when the new 60,000 stadium for Milan, replacing the San Siro, is built.

Two potential designs were unveiled recently, both in keeping with Milan’s position as Italy’s city of style and aesthetics, one was called “The Cathedral”, while the other was titled “The Rings of Milano”. The project will take three years to complete and the bill will come in at around € 650 million. Despite tentative discussions around AC Milan and Inter going separate ways, the two clubs will continue to share their home.

A new stadium, with expanded commercial opportunites, can close the gap between the Milanese giants and Juventus, who have leapt ahead of the rest of Serie A after leveraging a new stadium and going through a complete reinvention.

Before the Derby d’Italia, Inter have to travel to Barcelona for their second UEFA Champions League group game, which has assumed even greater importance after a tame draw with Slavia Prague in Milan on matchday one. Juventus, meanwhile, host Bayer Leverkusen after drawing at Atlético Madrid in their opening game.

There’s some mind games taking place ahead of the derby, with Juventus making a new appeal to have the 2005-06 Serie A title stripped from Inter. Juve had the title revoked after being embroiled in the Calciopoli scandal resulting in Inter being given the prize. It all adds a little more tension to the occasion, as if a derby between Inter and Juve needed any additional stimulation!



Photo: PA


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