Italy's Odd Couple prepare for prime time tussle

You can still catch The Odd Couple on cable TV in Italy, but Serie A’s very own Felix and Oscar will have a prime-time slot on Saturday.Jose Mourinho and Claudio Ranieri will take their cantankerous, mismatched relationship in front of an enthralled San Siro audience for a performance sure to have us all rolling in the aisles.It’s Inter vs Juventus, Italy’s answer to Manchester United vs Liverpool and Real Madrid vs Barcelona, and is known by its grandiose title “The Derby of Italy.”

No love's lost between the clubs and certainly none between the fastidious, preening Portugese peacock and the laid-back, easy-going Italian.

However, they can’t seem to live without each other and especially without getting on each other’s nerves.Asked whether Ranieri would extend the hand of “friendship” before the game, the Juve boss replied: “With the help of God, yes.”

Jose offers his hand (God not pictured)

That will be probably be the height of any good will, with Ranieri claiming: “We have nothing in common. That’s the simple fact.”That may be so, but their on-running series has produced some classic quotes, with the Italian press reproducing some of the best this week.First, Mourinho arrived at Chelsea in July 2004 only to berate his predecessor for failing to win anything with: “If anyone happens to speak to Ranieri tell him you can only win the Champions League by beating clubs from other countries.”While later that year Ranieri, admitting he doesn’t follow his old side, chirped: “Friends tell me they are difficult to watch.”This year, Mourinho cropped up in Italy, chatting away like a native, adding: “The previous coach at Chelsea could hardly say “Good morning” or “Good afternoon” after five years in England.“He’s won nothing and how old is he, 70?”

"The Force is strong with Jose. He must not become a Jedi." 

Cue canned laugher as Ranieri turns 57 and turns to the audience with a knowing smile before uttering: “You should congratulate me, I am 70.”On Friday afternoon during the pre-game press conference, Mourinho was as po-faced as a judge, claiming: “I’ll be as educated as ever and seeing as I am at home I will extend my hand in the tunnel.”To do what, remains to be seen.Now, how did that theme tune go again?

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