MILAN, Italy, Sep 16 – Mauro Icardi’s dream of “winning trophies” with Inter Milan has been dealt a Europa League blow and now faces a Serie A acid test in Sunday’s visit of champions Juventus for the “Derby d’Italia”.
The Argentine striker has hit the net six times against the Old Lady of Turin, including three times with his former club Sampdoria.
And with three goals from the opening three games of the season, the 23-year-old fans’ favourite will be looking to stretch his impressive record against Juve’s legendary ‘keeper Gianluigi Buffon.
Already five points behind the league-leading Turin giants, Inter are in dire need of fresh hope after suffering a stunning 2-0 home defeat by Hapoel Be’er Sheva in their Europa League opener on Thursday.
Icardi said in the lead-up to the game he would love to emulate his idol, former Inter and Barcelona striker Ronaldo, who helped Inter to the UEFA Cup title in 1998.
“Ronaldo is the biggest striker of all time, but I want to win trophies wearing this jersey as well,” he said.
Icardi failed to make an impact as a late substitute on Thursday, when Inter looked anything but title challengers.
Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci expects a “fierce” encounter at the San Siro but, after a chastening scoreless draw with Sevilla in their Champions League opener in midweek, says Juve won’t be swayed from their bid to win a record sixth consecutive title.
“I expect a fierce game because let’s not forget: it’s the Italian Derby,” Bonucci told Sky Sport.
“As a squad they (Inter) are still under construction, they have new players and a new coach. They will want to show that they can vie with Juventus.
“But after our Champions League draw, they’ll face an even hungrier Juventus side one that wants to become the first team in Italy to win six consecutive league titles.”
An Inter defeat would leave Frank de Boer’s men eight points behind Juve after just four games and heap further pressure on the Dutchman after Thursday’s shocker.
Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri is under no such pressure but is set to ring the changes with Dani Alves doubtful for Sunday’s clash after suffering a knock against Sevilla.
Alves will be “monitored regularly” to see if he is fit, although Allegri can count on wingback Stephan Lichtsteiner, left out of the Italian giants’ Champions League squad, as a replacement.
Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic, left on the bench on Wednesday, could also return to partner either Gonzalo Higuain or Paulo Dybala.
– Napoli buoyant –
Napoli host Bologna at their San Paolo stadium on Saturday looking to continue their bright start to the season.
Maurizio Sarri’s men are tied for second place in the league with Roma at two points behind Juventus and morale is sky high after victory away in Kiev in their Champions League group opener in mid-week.
Last season Higuain hit a league record 36 goals for Napoli, and although the Argentine has found the net three times in the league since joining Juve, he is fast becoming a distant memory at the San Paolo.
Spanish defender Raul Albiol told Napoli’s official radio station Kiss Kiss: “Our squad’s now bigger in number but we’ve also grown in terms of quality.
“e’re a competitive side and want to find consistency in the league as well. We’re already totally focused on Saturday’s match with Bologna.”
On Sunday Roma, who eked out a 1-1 Europa League draw at Plzen, travel to Fiorentina, who held PAOK to a scoreless draw in Greece.
– Fixtures (times GMT) –
Sampdoria v AC Milan (1845)
Lazio v Pescara (1600), Napoli v Bologna (1845)
Udinese v Chievo (1030), Cagliari v Atalanta, Crotone v Palermo, Sassuolo v Genoa, Torino v Empoli (all 1300), Inter Milan v Juventus (1600), Fiorentina v Roma (1845)