Juventus v Inter: Hernanes wary of opening title race up to chasing pack
Hernanes has warned Juventus to be wary of their Serie A rivals matching the champions' stellar run of form as they attempt to keep it a two-way race for the title with Napoli by winning Sunday's derby d'Italia against Inter.
Leaders Juve recovered from a slow start in the top flight to put together a 15-match winning league streak that only ended with a disappointing 0-0 draw at Bologna last weekend, Napoli's failure to beat Milan keeping them top.
Massimiliano Allegri's men, who fought back from two down to draw 2-2 with Bayern Munich in the Champions League last-16 first leg on Tuesday, next face an Inter side whose title challenge has apparently derailed in 2016.
Roberto Mancini's men were top at the mid-season break, but three losses and three draws in eight league games since the turn of the year has left them 10-points off the pace in fifth.
However, midfielder Hernanes – who swapped Inter for Juve in the close-season – warned any complacency will open the door to the chasing pack.
"We've produced an extraordinary reaction to falling off the pace early on, but we can't rest on our laurels," he told Juve's official website.
"We are competing with Napoli for the Scudetto, but who is to say that another team won't put together another run like ours and place themselves in the title picture?"
This weekend's contest at Juventus Stadium is the first of a double-header, with Juve travelling to San Siro for the second leg of the Coppa Italia semi-finals on Wednesday.
Juve have a commanding 3-0 lead in that tie and Inter's last win in the derby d'Italia came back in November 2012.
But Hernanes is expecting a sterner test this time around.
"It's a massive game not only for us, but also for Inter," he added. "After our last meeting they will play more carefully and keep things tighter so we're all expecting a tough 90 minutes."
Inter's inconsistency over the past two months has seen the pressure grow on Mancini.
Rumours have also persisted that president Erick Thohir is looking to sell his majority stake in the club, something Inter and the man himself denied.
Inter, who beat struggling Sampdoria 3-1 last week, may be the unfancied side heading into the game, but Mauro Icardi insists they can cause an upset.
"We have to give it our best shot," he said. "We always set out to win and anything can happen once you get out there but you need the right mentality."
Inter can welcome back Geoffrey Kondogbia after his two-match ban for a sending off against Fiorentina this month was shortened to one, while Claudio Marchisio (thigh) is not available for Juve.
Key Opta Stats:
- This will be the 166th Serie A meeting between these two sides – Juventus lead by 78 wins to 45, with 42 draws.
- Inter were the first side to win at the Juventus Stadium in Serie A (1-3 in November 2012) – however, the Nerazzurri have won only 11 of the 82 league meetings against Juve in Turin (D15, L56).
- Juventus have found the net in each of their last nine home games against Inter in Serie A.
- Juventus have kept a clean sheet in their last seven Serie A games. The last time they went eight consecutive games in a single season was in December 2013 (Juventus’ record is nine matches and dates back to 1972-73).
- Mauro Icardi has scored six goals in six Serie A games against Juve. However, he failed to find the net in the reverse fixture for the first time versus the Bianconeri.