When Juventus faced off against Inter Milan in December, the Scudetto picture looked a whole lot different than it does right now.
With their win at the Olimpico thanks to Claudio Marchisio's 58th minute stunner, Juve once again opened up the Scudetto race with just over half of the season left to go. The gap between the two teams was just five points and Juve looked like they were going to keep the pressure on their biggest rivals for the title.
That was then, this is now.
While Juve have completely fallen out of the Scudetto race in the weeks following their win in the first Derby, Inter also find themselves in a different position in the table—second place. The Nerazzurri have seen Claudio Ranieri's AS Roma squad leapfrog them in the standings with just five games remaining on the schedule.
Inter now have a fight for the title not very many people expected to happen. They need as many points as they can get because now they are the team chasing the leaders instead of the other way around.
Juventus, on the other, enter this derby obviously still trying to find some kind positive to take out of this disastrous season. A win against Inter, especially at the San Siro, would be just that.
Where to begin with this disaster of a club?
Despite actually showing up for games, Juventus' season has been over for months. They've been eliminated from not one, but two European competitions since the last time they faced Inter in a Serie A match.
The Bianconeri have recorded only three wins in the past eight Serie A fixtures dating back to the end of February. Over that time, the defense has been a disaster, allowing 14 goals.
The appointing of Alberto Zaccheroni after Juve's Coppa Italia exit against, ironically, Inter hasn't changed a thing. The squad's moral is in the tank and the players that struggled under Ciro Ferrara haven't improved at all since Zaccheroni took over.
The tactics Zaccheroni will use against Inter are anybody's guess. Whatever the Juve boss tries doesn't work no matter who is on the field. It's basically like he's throwing wet noodles against the wall and hoping something sticks.
That's not exactly what you call a winning formula.
And then there are, of course, the injuries. The week after Gianluigi Buffon and Giorgio Chiellini come back with Diego on the brink of returning to the lineup, David Trezeguet and Sebastian Giovinco (like he was going to play anyways) go down with injuries. Along with Martin Caceres, Giovinco and Trezeguet won't be available Friday night.
The big question remains—even though it's a derby and even though the squad is as healthy as its been in months, which Juventus team will we see?
Possible Starting XI (4-3-1-2): Buffon; Zebina, Cannavaro, Chiellini, Grosso; Sissoko, Melo, Marchisio; Diego; Amauri, Del Piero
Inter's lack of consistency has certainly caught up to them as they now find themselves in a complete fight with Roma in the season's final six weeks.
What's caused Inter's slide in positive results? Too much concentration on trying to win the Champions League? A tired squad because there hasn't been enough rotation lately?
Or maybe it's just a combination of a whole bunch of things?
Either way, with five games remaining, Inter is in a must-win situation every time they take the pitch. And that starts against Juve on Friday.
Reports out of Italy suggest that Jose Mourinho will switch to a 4-2-3-1 formation in light of his team's recent struggles. That would allow the Inter boss to field his big three of Wesley Sneijder, Diego Milito, and Semuel Eto'o along with the super-talented yet incredibly-volatile 19-year-old Mario Balotelli.
Other than who is playing up top, the lineup seems pretty much set. Davide Santon and Cristian Chivu will miss the match due to injury and suspension, respectively, so captain Javier Zanetti will play on the left side of defense.
No matter what formation, however, Inter enter this season's final Derby d'Italia as the heavy favorites.
Possible Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Julio Cesar; Maicon, Lucio, Samuel, Zanetti; Cambiasso, Motta; Balotelli, Sneijder, Eto'o; Milito