Friday, January 28, 2022

Why Inter Milan and Juventus could be trading spots in Italian football hierarchy after tense Supercoppa final

For years, Italian football has been dominated by Juventus. A winning cycle that began in 2011 and brought nine consecutive scudetti to Turin was highlighted by the arrival of Antonio Conte and then carried on perfectly by Massimiliano Allegri until 2019. Then something changed after the Conte and Allegri eras, first with Maurizio Sarri and then with Andrea Pirlo on the bench. Juventus, even with the difficulties of the past two seasons, had always found a winning formula that produced trophies. Even last season under Pirlo, the Bianconeri won two trophies: Supercoppa Italiana against Napoli and the Coppa Italia final against Atalanta in May 2021.

Despite no longer being considered the strongest in Serie A and the absences of Federico Chiesa, Matthijs de Ligt and Juan Cuadrado, some still favored Juve to produce that winning mentality in Wednesday’s extra-time defeat to Simone Inzaghi’s Inter Milan at San Siro. And that was put to bed in the 120th minute when Alexis Sanchez took advantage of Alex Sandro’s mistake and scored the winning goal and an unforgettable moment for Inter Milan supporters everywhere. Fans were able to witness the first trophy celebration for their loved club in eleven years, as it was not possible during last year’s Serie A title because stadiums were closed due to lockdowns and restrictions. 

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Inzaghi won the Supercoppa for the third time as a coach, the first with Inter Milan after two with Lazio. Incredibly, all three of his Supercoppa titles have come against Juventus, and in each of the three games there was a last-minute goal that decided the game. The former Lazio manager is the first in history to beat Juventus three times in a final.  

Inter Milan have the opportunity now to crack open a winning cycle with the first piece of hardware of the season. There are crucial weeks ahead with several big matches in Serie A and the round of 16 against Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League — all of which you can stream on Paramount+. Juventus, on the other hand, are in redemption mode, picking up the pieces from a terrible start of the season as they race to sneak into one of the top four spots all while preparing for Unai Emery’s Villarreal in the Champions League.

The reigning champs picking up another piece of silverware Wednesday could signal of a possible changing of the guard in Italy after a dominant run in the past decade-plus from Juventus. Thanks to the work of former Juventus CEO Beppe Marotta and longtime sporting director Piero Ausilio, Inter have hit on most of their choices off the pitch. A roster reconstruction that began back in 2017 with Luciano Spalletti and then with Conte has brought a winning mentality that revolutionized this club. This season Inzaghi was smart to improve a team that last summer seemed destined to get worse after Romelu Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi left the club. 

An example of how the two sides may have now traded places was Leonardo Bonucci’s reaction to Alexis Sanchez’s goal. When Sanchez score the winner at the death, the 34-year-old Juventus defender, who was preparing to enter in the event of a penalty shootout, lost his cool and sparked a heated confrontation with an Inter Milan staff member for cheering and was fined with €10,000. 

It was a hot-headed reaction that might not have seemed normal for a veteran like Bonucci in the heat of the moment, but it may given off a hint what the future could hold for an Inter Milan side that has become the team to beat in Italy, precisely like Juventus were for an entire decade. 

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