If there is one country where the derby duel is king, surely it has to be Italy. Not only do Rome, Milan, Turin and Genoa each boast a pair of Serie A sides, Italian football fans are regularly treated to tussles for regional pride, with the rivalry between north and south as intense as ever and little love lost between the two industrial capitals, Milan and Turin.
Despite all their respective achievements, however, games between AC Milan and Juventus have never been feted as derby occasions. Instead, the marquee sporting event between the two cities, separated by 141km, has long been regarded as the fixture pitting Juve against Inter – the much-vaunted Derby d'Italia.
When it comes to passion, though, there is no shortage of fervour whenever I Rossoneri face I Bianconeri. The games are unfailingly colourful, committed spectacles and feature two powerhouses, each with their own claim to being Italy's biggest clubs.
For fans of AC Milan, originally founded in 1899, the club's extraordinary list of titles ought to qualify them – rather than their city neighbours – as first-choice candidates for any 'derby of Italy' with La Vecchia Signora. Indeed, the debate never disappears off the radar for too long, with many conscious that the term Derby d'Italia was coined by influential Italian sports journalist Gianni Brera in 1967, at a time when Inter and Juve were the dominant forces in Serie A. The nickname quickly stuck and has resonated ever since, no matter how the clubs involved have fared along the way.
As for the rivalry between Milan and Juventus, it largely boils down to the sides' two Serie A meetings per season. For the other 363 days each year, the teams enjoy a close relationship, having worked together on various marketing projects and being united in opposition to their common 'enemy' in blue and black.
Moreover, a large number of players have turned out for both outfits, with the highest-profile names including Roberto Baggio, Filippo Inzaghi, Edgar Davids, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Gianluca Zambrotta. Most recently, Andrea Pirlo left I Rossoneri after ten years of service in 2011 and has used his stellar performances with Juve to regain his place as chief schemer for the Italian national team.
Nevertheless, despite those player movements and the lack of a catchy moniker, games between Milan and Juventus are always among the most highly anticipated fixtures in the Italian football calendar. They could even be seen as a breed of 'super derby', contests for supremacy between the country's two most titled clubs.
Facts and figures
Together, the duo have won the Scudetto 46 times, with Juventus collecting 28 of those titles and Milan the other 18, although I Rossoneri have won the European Cup seven times and Juve just twice. Milan also hold the edge in Intercontinental Cup triumphs, boasting three to Juve's two, and the San Siro side can likewise pride themselves on their one FIFA Club World Cup crown.
On the Serie A stage, Milan have hosted Juventus 77 times since 1929/30, recording 26 victories, 33 draws and 18 defeats. Their rivals have the upper hand when their games in Turin are entered into the equation, however, clinching 53 wins to Milan's 47 in 154 encounters, the other 54 ending with the scores level.
Of course, the two juggernauts have crossed paths in other competitions as well, not least the 2003 Champions League final, when Milan prevailed on penalties. In total, they have disputed 209 competitive jousts, Juventus winning 73 of them, Milan 64 and the remaining 72 finishing all square.
Tales of derbies past
The first ever meeting between the pair in Milan came on 22 March 1903 at the Campo dell'Acquabella, where spectators either congregated on a mound of earth to watch the action or placed their own chairs behind a rope circling the pitch. At the time, the championship consisted solely of knockout games and, in the semi-finals, Juventus marched onwards courtesy of a 2-0 success inspired by goals from Luigi Forlano and Umberto Malvano, two of the club's student founders.
Nine years later on 14 January 1912, the teams locked horns in another memorable encounter at the Porta Monforte di Milano, home to I Rossoneri between 1906 and 1914 – the San Siro not being built until 1925. This time, Milan emerged victorious with an 8-1 scoreline that remains their biggest ever triumph against Juventus, five of their goals coming from Louis Van Hege. First discovered by rich industrialist Piero Pirelli, and rechristened Luigi by the club's fans, the Belgian phenomenon struck a total of 97 goals in 91 games for Milan and even gave his name to the first version of the Italian Cup.
The inaugural Serie A contest between the clubs then followed on 4 May 1930, when Giuseppe Torriani conjured a last-gasp equaliser after Juve legend Raimundo Orsi had opened the scoring in the first minute.
On 12 March 1989, Milan coach Arrigo Sacchi handed out a veritable lesson in tactics to Dino Zoff by subjecting Juventus to a 4-0 loss, and two months later I Rossoneri were celebrating again as they clinched their third European title and the first of the Silvio Berlusconi era. The club's greatest humbling still lay ahead, though, La Vecchia Signora winning 6-1 on 6 April 1997 thanks to doubles from Vladimir Jugovic and Christian Vieri, a Zinedine Zidane penalty and a goal from Nicola Amoruso. For Berlusconi, the setback felt like nothing less than "the club's biggest defeat in terms of image".
There were fireworks too on 8 May 2005, when Carlo Ancelotti's Milan tackled Fabio Capello's Juve in a critical game during the Serie A title run-in. I Bianconeri's star duo ultimately made the difference as Alessandro Del Piero's bicycle kick was headed in by David Trezeguet, all under the watchful eye of venerated referee Pierluigi Collina.
The rivalry today
Although their long unbeaten run may have recently ended, Juventus hold sway at the top of the standings with a four-point lead over closest challengers Inter, while boasting 17 more than 12th-placed Milan, who are just four points clear of the relegation zone. Juve took the title last season after contesting the whole of their campaign without defeat, and they look to have settled on a harmonious blend of youth and experience, particularly in defence. If they have one lingering weakness, though, it has to be their lack of a prolific goalscorer.
As for Milan, they have suffered badly since losing eight senior players aged 30 or over in the summer, not to mention the damaging departures of star performers Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Fortunately for coach Massimiliano Allegri, the remarkable emergence of gifted forward Stephan El Shaarawy has allowed the club to keep its head above water as the rebuilding work continues.