ROME, April 15, 2010 (AFP) - Inter Milan host Juventus in a vital Serie A clash on Friday with both sides desperate for three points for very different reasons.
Normally this fixture at this stage of the season - there are five matches remaining in the league - would be billed as a title decider but that is far from the case this time around.
Inter, after four years of domination, find themselves in the unaccustomed position of scudetto chasers, one point and one place behind leaders AS Roma.
|Inter Milan's coach Jose Mourinho looks on prior to their Italian semifinal second leg football match Florence against Inter Milan on April 13, 2010. AFP PHOTO|
They must win this game to put the pressure firmly back on Roma ahead of the Rome derby on Sunday where in-form Lazio will be the nominal hosts at the shared Stadio Olimpico.
But Inter are engaged on three fronts and their resources are stretched to bursting point as they play two matches a week, every week.
Having beaten Chelsea home and away in successive weeks to reach the Champions League semi-finals, they beat Fiorentina 1-0 away on Tuesday to qualify for the Italian Cup final with a 2-0 aggregate success.
But next week they are back on Champions League duty as they host Barcelona in their semi-final, first leg.
That was one reason that coach Jose Mourinho rested the likes of top scorer Diego Milito, defensive midfielder Esteban Cambiasso, centre-back Walter Samuel and playmaker Wesley Sneijder against La Viola.
Every game is a must win game for Inter now according to captain Javier Zanetti and he says they cannot afford to let anything slip right through to the end of the season if they are to become the first Italian team ever to win the treble.
"We always go out onto the pitch to win and that's why from now to the end we will approach every game with determination," said the veteran Argentinian defender.
"We're playing on all three fronts, we won't give an inch, not in the league, not in the Champions League and not in the Cup.
"I repeat, we always take to the pitch with the intention of winning every game, sometimes we manage it and sometimes not.
"We'll approach the next games with the same intentions and then we'll see what happens."
While Inter are on the verge of completing their greatest ever season, Juventus are in the midst of one of their worst of all time.
They crashed out of the Champions League in December following a 4-1 home reverse to Bayern Munich in the group stages and their stay in the Europa League was then also short-lived.
Another 4-1 defeat, this time away to Fulham in the round of 16 in March, saw them lose their 3-1 first-leg advantage and ended their interest in continental competition.
In between they had lost to Inter in the Coppa Italia at the end of January, after which coach Ciro Ferrara was sacked and replaced by Alberto Zaccheroni.
But all those cup disasters have been the least of Juve's worries this season - it is in the league where they have really suffered.
They have already lost 12 times in 33 matches and have leaked a porous 47 goals, three more than Atalanta who are in the relegation zone.
They sit sixth in the table but three points behind Palermo in the crucial fourth place, the last Champions League qualifying position - failure to secure a top four spot would be a crushing blow.
And this is the first of two trips they face to the San Siro as they travel to AC Milan on the final day of the season.
There is reason for Juventus to be optimistic for a victory as Inter have won only three of their last 11 games, allowing Roma to overturn what was once a 14-point deficit in November into a one-point lead.