Strong Inter will focus on their rivals Juve


Inter Milan face fierce rivals Juventus on Sunday, starting with a dramatic run into the Champions League quarter-finals, where the Rome derby will also speak for the top-four race.

Simone Inzaghi’s side-goal during the weekend’s derby d’Italia clash is a heated battle between two of Italy’s traditionally biggest clubs, and a much more toxic encounter than Inter’s battle with AC Milan for local bragging rights.

It could be key to a tight race for next year’s edition of Europe’s top club competition, with five clubs vying for three spots, with league leaders Napoli within striking distance and chasing the title.

Inter sit in second place, 18 points behind Napoli and just three points clear of fifth-placed Roma, who are two points and two places behind Lazio ahead of Sunday’s main event in the capital.

Friday’s defeat at La Spezia dented Inter’s top-four hopes, but all their rivals have dropped points, including Atalanta, who are six points adrift of the Champions League and host Empoli on Friday.

Inter have been inconsistent this season, but have shown up in the biggest games, such as Wednesday’s goalless draw at Porto, which secured them a place in the last eight of the Champions League for the first time since 2011.

The 1-0 win over the Portuguese temporarily silenced critics who had predicted that Inzaghi’s time at Inter would be over after the defeat to La Spezia.

“I’ve been in football for a long time and I know where criticism comes from and who to listen to,” Inzaghi said.

“We have an important match on Sunday, but I want to enjoy this moment right now, we deserve it.”

Juventus head into the San Siro in seventh place and 10 points behind Milan, who travel to Udinese on Saturday.

However, they would have finished second to Inter if not for the 15-point penalty imposed by the Italian Football Federation in January for an illegal transfer attempt.

Juventus hope to overturn the decision, but will have to wait a week to find out their fate.

So far have slowly climbed the table with five wins in their last six league matches.

Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri has repeatedly referred to the number of points his team has accumulated “on the pitch”, a word often used by fans when referring to the number of league titles they have won.

Officially, Juventus have 36 players in their squad, but fans believe the two sent off after the infamous Calciopoli match-fixing scandal should be counted.

Allegri was again without Paul Pogba due to injury, with the French midfielder playing just 35 minutes since returning from Manchester United last summer.

A clear indication of just how important Paulo Dybala has been to Roma came last weekend, when the Argentinian forward scored a man and two goals against Sassuolo at half-time.

He pulled a goal back with a stunning first-time strike and came very close to equalizing with a delicate long-range chip that was well struck.

Roma lost 4-3, but everything good about their game has gone to their heads, and they will need their star player in top form if they are to win the derby and boost their fourth-placed hopes.

3 is the number of points separating the second and fifth.

10 – points distance between “Juventus” and the top four.

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