MILAN - Rarely can a league match between Juventus and Inter Milan have been more important than Sunday's Turin clash despite their long and bitter rivalry.
Juve against Inter is known as the "Derby of Italy" given the hostility between the sides following their title battles over the years and the fallout from a 2006 match-fixing scandal.
But Sunday's game with just over three months left in the season will be especially hard-fought with Inter needing a win to put further pressure on stuttering leaders AC Milan and Juve desperate for three points to stop their season collapsing.
"Home or away, when Inter play Juventus it's always a huge game and a very tense affair. It's important that things don't get out of hand - on the pitch or off it - but we know it will be a massive game for them and for us too," Inter president Massimo Moratti told reporters.
"The championship race is very much alive and fortunately we're starting to get involved in it again now. I think it's fantastic for the fans - of all teams."
Third-placed Inter trail Milan by five points with a game in hand after new boss Leonardo helped the European champions recover from a poor start to the campaign under Rafa Benitez.
Last weekend's 5-3 win over AS Roma showed off their refound verve up front, even with Diego Milito now out injured for a month, although they are leaking goals much more regularly than they did in their treble season last term under Jose Mourinho.
Once mighty Juve on the other hand are down in eighth having finished a poor seventh last term but last Saturday's 3-1 win at Cagliari when new signing Alessandro Matri scored twice against his former club offered some hope to their fretting fans.
Their frustration goes back to 2006 when Juve were stripped of their 2005 and 2006 scudettos and demoted to Serie B for trying to procure favourable referees for matches.
Despite bouncing straight back to the top-flight and finishing third the following season, Luigi Del Neri's side have failed to rediscover their former glory with a host of average-quality signings and injury problems not helping.
Juve have accused Inter of also being involved in the 2006 scandal and getting away scot free. The Italian soccer federation is probing new phone tap evidence from the last decade related to Inter, who deny wrongdoing.
Milan, who host Parma on Saturday, will hope the pair cancel each other out in Turin while second-placed Napoli have an awkward encounter at Roma in seventh.comments