The league table doesn't make any sense until the halfway point of the season, Jose Mourinho reasoned last night. It's a gem that Rafa Benitez probably wished he had thought of first, but then it's a lot easier to say when you are out in front.
Internazionale are eight points ahead of third-placed Juventus in Serie A and in tonight's grudge match in Turin they can all but end the Old Lady's domestic aspirations. "I only understand the table when we are 50 per cent of the way through the campaign," Mourinho said. "If there is a team out in front at that stage then you can start to understand how it will end, but there are four or five games until the second half of the season."
Despite the Nou Camp no show in the Champions League, Inter have been almost faultless in the League, and Mourinho knows it: "The certainty is we will arrive back from Turin still ahead of Juventus."
Juve's season could be in ruins if things go against them over the next few days – tonight's game is to keep them in the hunt for the Scudetto – and if they lose to Bayern Munich in their last Champions League game they will be out of the European Cup.
Mourinho believes Juventus's experience will tell in the biggest week of their season. He said: "It's not a team of children. They know that the next two games are decisive. If you look at [Mauro] Camoranesi, [Fabio] Cannavaro, Alessandro Del Piero and Gianluigi Buffon, I don't see frightened faces."
But it is the older players that are worrying Juventus fans. Defender Fabio Cannavaro has been less than convincing since re-signing from Real Madrid and will be tested against former Barcelona striker Samuel Eto'o and Argentine front-man Diego Milito, who has scored nine goals in 12 games so far this season.
Elsewhere Camoranesi is struggling for fitness and even the possible return of Del Piero is a cause for concern because it could see coach Ciro Ferrara move one of the side's more consistent performers, Sebastian Giovinco, to accommodate him.
One consolation for Ferrara is that being the Derby d'Italia, form goes out of the window. These two clubs have hated each other for as long as Inter have believed Juventus have wielded too much control over the Italian league. Tension surrounding the first match to be played between the two since Inter won the 2005-06 league, after Juventus were stripped of the crown and relegated for bribing referees, has been heightened by the prospect of Mario Balotelli playing.
The out-of-favour forward has an excellent record at the Olympic Stadium and could be recalled to play on the ground where he was recently abused by Juventus fans. Juventus President Jean-Claude Blanc has pleaded with home fans to avoid "excessive or offensive" chants amid claims the abuse is of a racial nature and will lead to Inter players walking off the pitch if repeated.
"I don't see any reason why this can't just be a match of football and nothing else," Mourinho said. "I'm not Italian, I wasn't born with this rivalry between Inter and Juve. It will obviously be an important match, but for me it's a match that will give three points, the same points we got against Fiorentina and dropped against Sampdoria."
Inter president Massimo Moratti met Mourinho for lunch yesterday after taking in the final training session before the trip to Turin. Defender Davide Santon and Wesley Sneijder were put through individual sessions after returning from injury, while Ricardo Quaresma was absent.
Spotlight on...Yaya Touré
Barcelona's Yaya Touré has told coach Pep Guardiola he never advised media in France that he wanted a move away from the club. The Manchester City target’s lack of minutes after his magnificent season in Barça’s last campaign is a mystery. Guardiola said: “I would rather they did not go public with their grievances.” With or without Touré, Barca face Deportivo tonight, go to Kiev in midweek looking to secure Champions League qualification, and play the Catalan derby next week against Espanyol. Real Madrid face Almeria tonight before their trip to Marseilles.
Everybody’s talking about...Spain’s match-fixing
Up to 300 lower division footballers are involved in a Spanish FA and Uefa investigation into players betting on matches, including their own games. Suspicions that players betting on their own results was rife first surfaced when second division Las Palmas played Rayo Vallecano in the last game of last season.
Rayo’s goalkeeper needed a clean sheet to take the league’s best keeper award and Las Palmas needed a point to stay up. The game ended in a tame 0-0 and both club’s are now underinvestigation for matchfixing. Seven players from other clubs are being investigated for betting on the goalless draw. One player, who was traced when a relative won €48,000 on the result, is understood to have won as much as €200,000.Reuse content