Suddenly, Italy's derby is top-of-the-table clash

Associated Press Modified: November 1, 2012 at 8:17 am •  Published: November 1, 2012
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ROME (AP) — Inter Milan has just replaced Napoli as the top challenger to Juventus in Serie A and the timing couldn't be better with Italy's derby scheduled this weekend.

Inter takes an eight-match winning run in all competitions into Saturday's showdown in Turin, while Juventus enters on a 49-game league unbeaten streak.

Juventus has won its last three meetings with Inter in a match known as the derby d'Italia — Italy's derby — but Inter is on the rise with a trio of in-form strikers: Antonio Cassano, Rodrigo Palacio and Diego Milito.

"Our biggest weapon is the group collective," Inter's 36-year-old manager Andrea Stramaccioni said. "I'm going to prepare this match like I always do. We know we're facing the Italian champion. ... This is the chance to show our worth."

Having finished just sixth last season, this campaign has marked a sharp turnaround for Inter. The only times Inter had longer winning streaks came under Roberto Mancini in 2007-08 (13 matches) and 2006-07 (11).

Juventus is four points ahead of Inter, with Napoli six points back after losing 1-0 at Atalanta on Wednesday.

"It's never a normal match with the Nerazzurri," said Juventus assistant coach Angelo Alessio, who has been filling in on the touchline while manager Antonio Conte serves out a four-month ban for match-fixing stemming from when he led Siena two seasons ago.

Juventus' newly signed 19-year-old midfielder Paul Pogba scored an added-time winner in a 2-1 win at Bologna on Wednesday, and continues to gain praise for his enormous potential after transferring from Manchester United.

With fellow midfielders Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal unavailable, Pogba played the entire 90 minutes against Bologna, but with both of those players back, he could return to the bench against Inter.

"I'm not thinking about the match with Inter. I just want to enjoy this victory over Bologna," said Pogba, adding that he hopes to follow in the footsteps of former France greats at Juve like current UEFA president Michel Platini and Zinedine Zidane.

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