The Serie A calendar has not been particularly kind to Juventus in the early part of 2015/16, already pitting them against three of last season’s top eight.
The Bianconeri will travel to the great cathedral of the San Siro, taking on Inter Milan in a game known as the Derby d’Italia, the Derby of Italy. It is a fixture that has decided title races, changed the history of the league and even caused a fistfight during a parliament session.
Like much of the language connected with Italian football, it was coined in the late 1960s by famous journalist Gianni Brera in recognition of the two teams that had won the most trophies at that time.
DERBY D'ITALIA TONIGHT. AND ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY TO PUT OURSELVES WITHIN TOUCHING DISTANCE OF THE SCUDETTO. https://t.co/goRqHQ1BA82016-2-27 23:32:41
However, this clash was punctuated by scandal, intrigue and bad behaviour before it was ever given that moniker. For the first case of the bad blood that has come to typify meetings between these two prestigious clubs, we must look back to the 1960/61 campaign.
There, an encounter in Turin was abandoned after a pitch invasion, the result eventually awarded to the Milanese club because of Juve’s failure to control the crowd. However, the Bianconeri lodged an appeal and were granted a replay, much to the chagrin of their opponents.
The disgusted Nerazzurri made the decision to field their youth team in protest, a move that allowed the Old Lady to record the most one-sided result this fixture has ever seen.
Striker Omar Sivori tore the inexperienced opposition to shreds, scoring six that day in a 9-1 thrashing and, in doing so, secured the top-scorer crown and that year's Ballon d'Or.
It was the birth of this match becoming contentious, but throughout the 1970s and '80s, Inter continually failed to compete, meaning fixtures were relatively quiet compared to what was to follow.
Indeed, in April 1998, the Nerazzurri travelled to Turin with the title on the line, with what followed proving to be an incident-filled encounter that would reignite the old hatred and bile.
The match was marred by poor officiating and questionable calls on both sides, the most notable of which came when Brazilian star Ronaldo attempted to skip past Juve's Mark Iuliano.
Ste & Sabry @StefanoOlgiati1
ronaldo vs iuliano... commento scarpini https://t.co/YQDnf1XXuS via @YouTube @aleapo852016-4-26 13:44:00
The Italian defender seemingly body-checked the striker, but despite vociferous appeals, referee Piero Ceccarini waved play on. If that incensed the home side, they were incredulous moments later, when the official awarded a spot-kick to the Bianconeri.
As he so often did, Gianluca Pagliuca saved the resultant penalty, but the man who missed it, Juve captain Alessandro Del Piero, eventually bagged the goal that all but secured yet another Scudetto for the Turin giants.
Then-Inter coach Gigi Simoni was sent off for protesting the decisions being made on the field, but even his dismissal would pale in comparison to what followed when the match was discussed at the Italian parliament.
The video below shows many incidents from the game, but starting at the 2:37 mark, government officials can be seen talking about various incidents. The session was abandoned when, as can be seen, deputies from the far-right National Alliance and the Democrats came to blows over accusations of match-fixing.
The 20 seconds between the bodycheck and the awarding of a penalty to Juve became among the most replayed in history; countless television programmes slowed them down and discussed them.
Inter supporters call that day "The Grand Thievery," and since then, the clash has become the most intense intercity rivalry in the country. Two years after the Ronaldo incident, Paolo Montero was banned for punching Inter midfielder Luigi Di Biagio. Then the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal rocked the game on the peninsula to its core.
The aftermath of that debacle saw Juventus demoted to the second tier of Italian football for the first time in their history. Inter then signed Patrick Vieira and Zlatan Ibrahimovic relatively cheaply, for £6.5 million and £16.7 million respectively, the Bianconeri struggling financially after the incredible revenue loss their punishment caused.
That season spent in Serie B meant the fixture was absent for the first time in almost a century, but the break did nothing to cool tempers when it resumed the following year, with Giorgio Chiellini needing to be pulled away from former team-mate Ibrahimovic in the first post-Calciopoli encounter.
Callum McCarthy @clmmcrthy
Via @Paolo_Bandini: Zlatan vs. Chiellini nine years ago. Skip to 1:50 for some glorious defending. https://t.co/RLBLvGyfIZ2016-6-17 08:36:54
But the most heated clash of this new era came in 2009, with Inter embarking on what would become their incredible treble-winning season under Jose Mourinho. Yet the Stadio Olimpico became a cauldron of hate, the visitors' bus pelted with eggs and rotten fruit as it arrived in Turin.
However, the abuse directed at then-Inter star Mario Balotelli was far worse. A chorus of "if everybody jumps, Balotelli dies" rang loudly throughout the game, eventually resulting in Juventus being fined and forced to play a match behind closed doors, per the Telegraph.
Mourinho would be sent off for sarcastically applauding a first-half decision from the referee in the first half. Balotelli lived up to his image as a pantomime villain by pretending an elbow from Felipe Melo had caught him in the face, leading to the Brazilian midfielder also being shown a red card.
The incident—and indeed the vitriol on display throughout the clash—saw even the normally placid Gigi Buffon snap in the ensuing scuffle, grabbing international team-mate Thiago Motta by the throat.
Mourinho had previously launched what became a long-running feud with former Juve boss Claudio Ranieri. “He is almost 70 years old,” the Portuguese coach said of his then-56-year-old rival during their time in Italy, per Ben Hayward of Goal. "He hasn’t won anything.”
However, Ciro Ferrara had replaced the current Leicester City manager by 2009, and thanks to the fantastic goal from Claudio Marchisio shown below, he emerged with a fondly remembered 2-1 victory.
Last season once again saw this rivalry become heated, Juve taking a penalty-shootout triumph in the Coppa Italia semi-final that saw Inter eliminated and the Bianconeri clinch another league-and-cup double.
On Sunday, they will hope to give Frank de Boer’s side even more problems. Expect tension, drama and no shortage of passion as the old foes renew a rivalry that often delivers each of those in spades. This is the Derby d’Italia.