Inter-Juve, the duel is on

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They are tied for the lead of the Serie A after three rounds. Will it be a close race for the title? In the meantime, we analyse what works and what doesn't for these two great rivals.

MILAN, 22 September 2008 - 22 November 2008. Mark this date on your calendars, if you haven't already. It's the day of the Inter-Juventus match, moved up due to both teams' European competition schedules (Juve will play the following Tuesday). Yesterday afternoon they tied for the lead of the Serie A, but these two teams are fierce rivals. Will they be the title contenders? It's still too soon to say; they have only played three rounds of the Serie A season; Roma, Milan and Fiorentina cannot be written off yet. In any case, it's a real duel and a very interesting one. We have tried to analyse both squads and see what works and what doesn't work for them, their strengths and their weaknesses. In the long run, the difference could be made by their participation in the Champions League.

DEFENSE - Buffon is a true pillar but when he had to pass the baton in Cagliari, injured, Manninger proved to be able to carry out the task without too much trouble. Julio César wasn't less against Torino; at the end, he saved the day. In front of their goalkeeper, the remainder of the defensive line is a true reassurance for the squad. Juve have the best defensive line-up in the league, only letting in one goal so far, Gilardino's. Chiellini is back and making a difference; Legrottaglie is stronger than ever; Mellberg has had a few slip-ups upon his debut as a Bianconero and De Ceglie is proving to be more than an alternative to Molinaro on the left side. Inter probably have better wingers, with pointers like Maicon (who was excellent yesterday) and Maxwell, without forgetting other options like Chivu. The midfield forms a strong barrier: Materazzi, Chivu, Burdisso and Córdoba, who compete for the two available spots. Mourinho will have to be good in managing the turnover. Cambiasso has proven to be willing to play, if necessary, also as a midfielder.

MIDFIELD - Both midfield line-ups are very physical. Vieira, Muntari, Cambiasso and Zanetti on one hand (and even Stankovic, who was very close to signing with Juve this summer); Sissoko, Poulsen, Marchisio and Zanetti on the other. Both Mourinho and Ranieri can count on high-quality wingers. The Nerazzurri's 4-3-3 counts on Mancini, Figo, Quaresma and Balotelli whereas the Bianconeri's 4-4-2 relies on Camoranesi and Nedved (or Giovinco when he gets the chance) on the wings. Perhaps Inter have more options, although Juve have a "proletary" mentality, even for a big squad: it's one more weapon. The potential minor issues include on one side Muntari's indiscipline (who seems a regular recipient of red cards and has relapsed again) and on the other side, Zanetti's physical form (missing the beginning of the season).

ATTACK - Inter have already scored 6 goals in 3 matches. Ibra can play; he's been phenomenal. The others, they have their ups and downs. Adriano shows some promising signs; Crespo has been off the Champions League list. The "Special One" has lost "too many" options, especially if we consider Cruz. Juve have scored 3 goals in 3 matches. They have achieved the maximum results with minimum effort. But the scorers' table this season is reassuring, with Del Piero and "Trezegol" in the lead. However, the Frenchman will be out of commission for 3-4 months. He will be replaced by Amauri, who can score and seems convincing. The captain always makes a difference. It's a luxury to have players like Iaquinta and Giovinco (who has played very little so far) on the bench.

MANAGERS- And we couldn't forget the managers, who coach so many stars and bring in added value to their squads. The winner is whoever makes less mistakes, whoever can hide the weaknesses and highlight the strengths. It may be the ever calm Ranieri or the perfect storm, Mourinho.

PRECEDENTS - Last year, Inter and Juve met 4 times between the Serie A and the Italian Cup. The outcome was one victory for the Bianconeri and one draw in the league, with the Nerazzurri winning the pass in the Cup. It looks like Juve don't have an inferiority complex in individual matches, because of the character and the winning mentality of this resilient squad, whereas in a long-term competition, the Inter machine has a bit more cylinder power (more high-quality players). The first test will be on 23 November, during the 13th round of the Serie A.

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