The last time a team tried to go 50 matches unbeaten, the game ended in acrimony, pizza being flung about in the tunnel after the match, cheese and tomato running down Sir Alex Ferguson's suit. Could it happen again? Well, we are in Italy. So yes. Let's say yes. By 9.30pm, expect to see Antonio Conte covered in pepperoni.
Juventus's win over Bologna on Wednesday night, inspired by one Paul Pogba, brought their unbeaten run to 49 games. Forty-nine! And to think they were in Serie B a few years ago. There's hope yet for Rangers. Sort of.
No surprise that the champions are top of Serie A then. After 10 games, they've won nine and drawn one to lead Inter by four points. Many observers of Italian football are, of course, putting such a stunning record down to the influence of Nicklas Bendtner. It's possible Gigi Buffon, Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Mirko Vucinic have played a part too. Conte should probably take some of the credit ... if only for signing Bendtner.
They've got a job on their hands tonight though. After a ropey start to the season, Inter have clicked under young Andrea Stramaccioni and arrive at the Juventus Stadium on the back of a hot seven-match winning streak. The 36-year-old appears to have finally stabilised the club after the hangover caused by Jose Mourinho's departure following their Champions League win in 2010. Stramaccioni is Inter's fifth manager since then; he could well be The Man.
Juventus: Buffon, Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini, Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pirlo, Marchisio, Asamoah, Vucinic, Giovinco.
Inter: Handanovic; Ranocchia, Samuel, Juan; Zanetti, Gargano, Cambiasso, Nagatomo; Palacio, Cassano, Milito.
Kick-off: 7.45pm by the British Time.
An email. "Surprised you weren't MBM-officiating the West Ham game, presumably that's to avoid any accusations of Clattenburg-doing-Man U bias," says Ryan Dunne. "Nice Glorious Glasgow Rangers reference too. Re: 50 games. If memory serves, a lot of people characterised Man U spoiling Arsenal's attempts to go 50 not out as a victory for thuggery and spoiling over the beautiful game, Man U kicking Arsenal's lovely swashbucklers and winning with a jammy header from the not-exactly-flair-player Darren Fletcher. Not being a regular serie a follower (Parma's pink strips are cool though), is this Juventus side getting Arsenal-style respect and admiration from neutrals and pundits?"
No idea! I've hardly seen Juventus play. I understand they're rather tasty though. Contributions are welcome.
Off we go! Juventus get us going, kicking off from left to right. There's a rare old din inside the Juventus Stadium. My poor ears. Or left ear - for some reason, only the left headphone works when you're watching ESPN here. Anyway...
GOAL! Juventus 1-0 Inter (Vidal, 1 min): What a start! Juventus have taken the lead after only 20 seconds! Not that the goal should have scored, because Asamoah was at least a yard offside in the build-up. There may be some discussion about the officials afterwards. Call me a cynic, but. It was a wonderfully swift and decisive move, mind you. Inter were all over the place as Vucinic poked a pass through for Asamoah - who was offside - and the midfielder slashed a poor shot across goal from left to right, where Vidal was waiting for a tap-in. The ground erupts. Juve's players go crazy. More please!
3 min: On the touchline, Andrea Stramaccioni is having a discussion with the fourth official. He has the funk on.
4 min: Juventus are tearing into Inter at will here. Giovinco pulls over to the right and flashes a brilliant cross into the middle that just evades Marchisio and Asamoah. That could so easily have been 2-0. Pirlo then chips a classic Pirlo pass over the top and Handanovic punches away from Giovinco. Not that it matters: this time the flag is up for offside.
5 min: Is there anything more exciting than Italian football?
6 min: "Assuming ESPN are correct and Inter are going 3-4-3 tonight, isn't Strammacioni using the same system that got Gasperini sacked?" asks Sam Blanning. Well I suspect Stramaccioni has tried to match his side up with Juve's formation. It hasn't worked especially well so far though.
7 min: Andrea Pirlo is quite a good player. He clips a glorious first-time pass over the top of the gawping Inter defence for the onrushing Marchisio, who waits for the ball to drop from the sky before hitting a first-time volley that Handanovic pushes wide for a corner. What a save. What a pass. Pirlo.
9 min: Of course, the Inter tactic of letting-Andrea-Pirlo-do-what-he-wants is helping Juventus. There's no pressure on him at all as he finds Marchisio again in the area. The midfielder takes the ball down on his chest and then dribbles a volley straight at Handanovic.
10 min: Finally Inter show up front. First Cambiasso cracks one over from 25 yards out, before Juve lose the ball in their own final third, and a loose ball breaks for Cambiasso who whips an instant effort just over. Buffon didn't move, although that might just have been him showing off. There's been more action packed into this opening 10 minutes than you get in most games.
12 min: Inter aren't having any luck with the officials. A quick free-kick from the left catches out Juve's defence and Palacio steals in to glance a header low past Buffon, but the flag is up for offside. Let's just say it was a much tighter decision than the Juventus goal. Juve, of course, got away with one against Catania last Sunday too.
14 min: Still, when your luck's in...
15 min: Giovinco pierces the Inter defence but Vidal is roughly 453 yards offside. Even these officials can't miss that. "Re your Italian football being exciting comment, can I say that it's very much dependent on your team," says Michael Nimmo. "I'm a season ticket holder for Genoa, and it looks like being a long old season. Sure, it was exciting when Juve came, but more for their supporters than ours when they inconsiderately kept on scoring goals. Tonight is very much a battle between two unpleasant teams (not on the pitch, there they're quite good), but seeing Juve lose their unbeaten record at home against Inter would be quite fun."
16 min: Another lightning Juventus attack is brought to a halt by Javier Zanetti, 83. The delightfully impish Giovinco tries to wriggle into the Inter area but Zanetti uses all his experience. "On the way home after a bit of a corporate at Craven Cottage," says Freeloading's Gary Naylor. "My first time watching top flight football up close for a few years (maybe from when Wimbledon played at Selhurst Park). God knows football has plenty wrong with it, but it was a helluva spectacle today."
18 min: Friendly advice: don't take your eyes off this match.
20 min: Nagatomo tries to put in a cross from the left but Lichsteiner blocks it behind for Inter's first corner. There's a delay before the corner can be taken while the referee pretends to sort out some wrestling in the area. The first corner's a waste, but Inter get another go. This time they roll it short to Cassano on the edge of the area and he bends a shot inches past the far post. Buffon was definitely beaten.
21 min: Inter have settled now and are starting to exert some control on proceedings. I'm not sure if Juventus can maintain this sort of pace for 90 minutes.
23 min: "Juve are quite strong this year in serie A," notes Ben Dunn. "Milan gave them Pirlo in exchange for a match ball and a set of luminous cones because he was obviously shot (he has yet to lose a game in black and white) and then sold Ibra, who is quite good in Italian football, and Silva, ditto. The other teams, Inter included, are utter pith. Juve in Europe will show their level, which is out of the top four in all other leagues of importance. i.e. not French)."
25 min: Apropos of nothing, here's a wonderful Alessandro Del Piero goal in this fixture in 1998.
27 min: Lichsteiner plays a pass to Vucinic, failing to notice the striker had his back to him and had walked off the pitch, looking to sort out a problem with his calf. Nicklas Bendtner is warming up and egregiously applauding the Juve fans.
29 min: Barzagli tries to score from 35 yards out. Stop it.
30 min: Lichsteiner is booked after an industrial-strength challenge on Cambiasso.
31 min: Cambiasso's free-kick is an abject waste of time from an Inter perspective and from it, Juventus go close to doubling their lead. Giovinco hares away down the right and with only one Inter defender back, he should find Vucinic to his left. His pass was poor though, allowing another defender to get back to mop up.
33 min: Now Samuel is booked after bringing down Giovinco.
34 min: Lichsteiner, already booked, catches Palacio. He should be sent off. He's not. How odd.
35 min: A dreadful mistake from the increasingly inept Ranocchia lets Asamoah in down the left. He could drive towards goal - and also has team-mates in the middle - but curiously decides to cut the ball back to Vidal on the edge of the area. He's not expecting the pass and Juan dispossess him.
38 min: Lichsteiner, who should have been sent off a few minutes ago, is replaced by Martin Caceres. Are you watching, Arsene?
39 min: "My girlfriend, who is absolutely inwardly delighted that I'm reading an MBM and emailing you, was fairly unblown over that you'd published my previous email, despite my satisfaction," says Michael Nimmo. "She said that she'd always wondered who would write into to stuff like this, and I'm pretty sure she had imagined it was the handsome life-and-soul types like me and other emailers, who are of course passing over other saturday night plans with people to follow your updates. Oh." She's a lucky girl.
41 min: Just to recap, Juventus have had a blatantly offside goal given and should be down to 10 men, while Inter have had a goal disallowed for offside. [cliche]These decisions even themselves out over the course of the season though.[/cliche]
43 min: Asamoah rolls a pass inside to Giovinco, who bursts past one defender and into the area but sees his cutback deflected to Handanovic. "With apologies to Ben..." begins Lorenzo Landini. |I agree that Serie A has (obviously) weakened in recent years with scandals and economic problems. And I hate Juve. But this argument of Juve 'showing (Serie A's) level' in Europe is silly looking at their 2-2 match against Chelsea, ManU needing to scrape come-from-behind wins at home against unknowns, and the champs ManCity being bottom of their group. Serie A remains one the top 4 leagues in Europe, and to say otherwise based on recent results ignores Premier League struggles, as well as seeming petty."
44 min: Handanovic has to back-pedal and push an awkward cross from Asamoah over his own bar after it took a deflection off Zanetti. "An MBMer with a girlfriend?!" asks Ryan Dunne. "Emailing on a Saturday night?! I think you should request Michael Nimmo supply photographic proof of this absurdity."
45 min+1: Nagatomo and Juan clown about like a pair of ... clowns, actually, each leaving a loose pass for the other, failing to react as Vidal sneaks in between the pair of them and hammers a low drive goalwards from the edge of the area. Handanovic gets down well to save and Vidal blasts the rebound miles wide from a tight angle.
Half time: Juventus 1-0 Inter. Well that flew by.
SATURDAY NIGHT ENTERTAINMENT DEP'T: Nicklas Bendtner has replaced the injured Mirko Vucinic for Juventus. Inter get the ball rolling in the second half. Juve are 45 minutes away from going 50 games unbeaten. "Re Ryan Dunne's photographic proof-request, I did suggest that i send a photo of her to prove her existence, but she laughed," says Michael Nimmo. "I guess she's embarrassed to be seen on an Italian MBM, English football's much more her bag."
47 min: "Watching in Co Meath, Ireland, and it's even a Saturday night here, too," says Paul Neilan. "Just one thing; Vucinic, why? He's a donkey. For a team about to go 50 games unbeaten he has been piss-poor all season. He's clunky, immobile, has an attitude etc. I just don't get it anymore (see Saturday night in, above)." Nicklas Bendtner is his understudy.
48 min: Pirlo is booked for hauling back Palacio. Will they take him off now? Probably not. Cassano slices the resulting free-kick miles wide. His response is to just stand there ruefully shaking his head.
49 min: "Admitedly English teams are on the wane in Europe, despite being current champions," admits Ben Dunn. "But on the European scale (I don't know how it works but there are points accumulated from the last five years) Italian teams are struggling to keep Italy with three Champions league places. They have performed very poorly and this is represented in the their European results - there have been a number of articles in the Gazzetta dello Sport on the subject. I believe England are heading in that general direction too, but at the moment are still considerably stronger, over a period of five years than Serie A."
51 min: Bonucci, scourge of gun-wielding muggers, strolls forward from the back and then unleashes from 25 yards out, bringing a fine save out of Handanovic. Moments later Chiellini is booked for persistent fouling.
52 min: Ranocchia launches a ball down the inside-right channel for Palacio to chase. He reaches it ahead of Buffon, touching the ball round the Juve keeper, but can only send it into the side-netting from a very tight angle.
54 min: Inter's threat is growing. Chiellini loses the ball and Inter set off on the break, Milito running at the backtracking Juventus defence. He moves it to the right for Palacio, who hammers it woefully over the bar. That was awful. There's then a stoppage in play after some moron hits the official behind the goal with something thrown from the crowd. On ESPN, Stewart Robson opines that he hopes the official isn't making the most of it. Comments don't get much stupider than that. The official is fine though. His neck's a bit sore, mind you.
56 min: Nagatomo bursts into the area and cracks a rising drive towards the far corner, Buffon beating it away. Inter are the better side.
58 min: PENALTY TO INTER! A free-kick to Inter just outside the area. Instead of shooting, they try to work a clever one in the style of Argentina against England in 1998, but it comes to nothing as Marchisio has a handful of Diego Milito's shirt in the area. A clear penalty.
GOAL! Juventus 1-1 Inter (Milito pen, 59 min): This is fairly conclusive. Milito slams the penalty high into the top-right corner to level it up. Juve's unbeaten record is under threat now but this is no more than Inter deserve. It's been coming.
62 min: It's all Inter. Bonucci clumsily brings down Milito on the left and goes into the book. Juve are rocking. The free-kick comes to nothing though. "Fair dos MIchael Nimmo," fair-dos Ryan Dunn. "I should stress that I'm only really dipping into tonight's MBM; my primary online focus being Wookiepedia articles about the new Star Wars movies, plainly a far more girlfriend-conducive online activity."
65 min: From the left, Pirlo curls a free-kick straight at Handanovic, who elects to punch it away.
66 min: Giovinco dips and tricks his way into the Inter area, before crumbling underneath the softest of challenges from Gargano. No penalty.
69 min: Fredy Guarin replaces Antonio Cassano for Inter.
71 min: I'm not sure that Nicklas Bendtner has touched the ball yet. Taking a throw-in doesn't count.
72 min: Javier Zanetti is making Asamoah look very raw indeed.
74 min: Caceres makes a great tackle to deny Cambiasso! A low ball was fizzed in from the right by Palacio. Milito couldn't reach it at the near post, but as the ball broke loose Caceres recovered brilliantly to stop Cambiasso shooting from six yards out.
GOAL! Juventus 1-2 Inter (Milito, 75 min): Now Juventus's unbeaten run really is on the brink. Arturo Vidal gave the ball away in a dangerous area and the substitute Guarin charged forward, showing a terrific change of pace against the exposed Juventus defence, bursting easily past Chiellini. His low drive from 25 yards out was pushed out by Buffon but only as far as Milito, who made no mistake from eight yards out. Juventus have 15 minutes left to rescue their record, but they have done very little in the second half.
78 min: Fabio Quagliarella replaces Martin Caceres for Juventus. Caceres, of course, was subbed on in the first half.
80 min: Mudingayi comes on for Diego Milito, whose two goals looks like ruining Juve's night.
82 min: Handanovic flies to his left to tip a Pirlo piledriver from 25 yards out past the post. The corner is cleared. But now, inevitably, Inter are being pushed back.
83 min: Inter nearly shoot themselves in the foot, Gargano's pass back to Handanovic intercepted by Bendtner, whose attempted chip on the turn from a tight angle drifts harmlessly wide.
85 min: Zanetti is booked for cynically tugging back Asamoah on the left. Palacio heads Pirlo's free-kick away.
87 min: Quagliarella turns, beats his man and hits a rising drive just past the right post from 25 yards out. So close. But the unbeaten record is slipping away.
GOAL! THERE GOES THE UNBEATEN RECORD! Juventus 1-3 Inter (Palacio, 90 min): No one's getting past 49 games. Not tonight, anyway. With Juventus committing men forward in search of an equaliser, Inter catch them horribly short on the break. Nagatomo broke down the left and saw his initial shot blocked, but recovered possession, cut inside and slipped a pass through to Palacio, who prodded a shot underneath Buffon. What a turnaround. Inter fully deserve this.
90 min+1: There will be three minutes of stoppage time. But nothing's doing for Juventus now. The stadium is emptying.
90 min+2: It will be interesting to see how Juventus react to this defeat. Arsenal never recovered from losing their unbeaten record to Manchester United in 2004.
Full time: Juventus 1-3 Inter. That's it! Juventus's run ends at 49! No one's touching the 58 games Fabio Capello's Milan put together. Inter celebrate wildly, while Juventus can hardly believe it, either on or off the pitch. Juventus are still top - a point ahead of Inter - but suddenly everyone will look at them in a very different light. They can be beaten. Thanks for reading. Bye.