Benitez wary ahead of first derby
Rafael Benitez today likened this tomorrow's Inter Milan-Juventus clash to the biggest games in England and Spain.
The Nerazzurri coach takes charge of his first Derby d'Italia with his side sitting top of Serie A but just three points ahead of the visitors. And the former Liverpool and Valencia coach believes this game is comparable to the highest profile fixtures in European football.
"This game is like Liverpool-Manchester United in England and Real Madrid-Barcelona in Spain," he said. "There's the same type of rivalry and for me it should be the same here. But the key is we need to be talking about football."
There have been fears that there could be trouble between the two sets of fans as there is a history of bad feeling in this fixture, with some Juve supporters aiming racial abuse at Mario Balotelli last season. The young striker has now left Inter for Manchester City but Juve president Andrea Agnelli still felt moved to call on fans to behave in an open letter.
Benitez insists that if everyone focuses on the pitch, there won't be any problems. "Rather than keeping things calm in the stands, we should make a noise on the pitch," he said. "Of course there's rivalry between the two teams and Juve are desperate to win. It will be difficult but most of all we can win. It will be a tough game but it could also be a great game.
"I come from a country where you can stay in the ground without any problems. Inter-Juve is a big game and we have the opportunity to show the world that there can be a rivalry with respect for the others."
Juve have been inconsistent in the early part of the season, banging in goals for fun but also leaking them in almost equal measure. But Benitez believes they are capable of challenging until the end of the season.
"They have a very good 4-4-2 system and I'm sure at the end of the season they will be near the top of the table," he added. "They have changed a lot from last year and they're dangerous because they're hungry for a victory."
Inter will be missing captain Javier Zanetti, centre-back Walter Samuel and forward Goran Pandev but goalkeeper Julio Cesar, striker Diego Milito and defender Lucio have all been passed fit for the match.