Inter Milan v Juventus, Coppa Italia, January 28, 2010
Will Juventus’ trip to Inter Milan be the last time Ciro Ferrara leads the Old Lady out on the field?
Speculation is rife that the former Juventus defensive legend will be cut loose after this fixture as the Bianconeri’s funk continued last weekend with a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of Roma. (Juve are 8/1 to lose by the same score to Inter.) Sitting in sixth place and 16 points off Inter in the league table, the Turin giants season has been hugely disappointing so-far, and with five defeats in their last six Serie A games the guillotine is being sharpened for the current coach.
Yet this is no time for the Old Lady to be down on their luck. Out of the Champions League, virtually out of theÂ title race, the Coppa Italia is now Juve’s best chance of silverware this season.
Juventus will arrive in Milan with several selection headaches, beginning with the absence of midfielder Hasan Salihamidzic who pulled up in training with a muscle problem earlier in the week. Salihamidzic joins Claudio Marchisio, Christian Poulsen, David Trezeguet, Vincenzo Iaquinta and Mauro Camoranesi on the sidelines.
There are also doubts over the inclusion of Alessandro Del Piero after the club’s talisman caught a flu bug at the start of the week. Should the club captain miss the trip to Inter Juventus will naturally be fearful of who will score the goals against Serie A’s meanest defence, particularly as Brazilian striker Amuari hasnâ€™t scored in the league since late October. (Juventus are 11/1 to win both halves.)
With problems up-top, Juve also have big problems to try and plug their pourous defence. Despite having Gigi Buffon between the sticks, Ferrara’s backline have conceded 28 times in 21 games in the league and they have only kept one clean sheet in their last 11 matches in all competitions. Being brutal, Zdenek Grygera simply isn’t assured enough at right-back, while on the opposite flank Fabio Grosso looks like a player struggling for form as he reaches his twilight years. (Inter are 11/4 to win both halves.)
Turning to the Nerazzurri, the hosts could well rotate their squad for their least important competition left on their agenda this season, with the likes of Marco Materazzi and Ricardo Quaresma set for starts for Inter.
Mario Balotelli is in contention to lead the line alongside Goran Pandev (who has looked in fantastic form since he free transfer from Lazio), while the hugely promising 20-year-old forward Marko Arnautovic could also see some playing minutes in a rare appearance for the first team.
Two players likely to feature though are Wesley Sneijder and Lucio, who both saw red against Milan last weekend. Since, the pair have been handed a two and one match ban, respectively, and with enforced absences on the horizon it can be expected that Mourinho will select two of his star players against Juventus.
By all accounts Inter should win this match at a canter and Ferrara should be picking up his P45 at full time. Yet football has a nasty habit of springing surprises, particularly in one-off cup matches, and it wouldn’t be a great surprise if a second-rate Inter team ran out of puff against an emotionally charged Juve outfit. (Juve are 2/1 to reach the semi-finals.)
101predicts: Inter Milan 1 – Juventus 2 (18/1)
Full match odds here.