On a busy Serie A Sunday, including the Rome derby, Inter Milan takes on fierce rival Juventus after their thrilling run to the Champions League quarterfinals.

PHOTO | COURTESY Inter focuses on Juve amid glory in CL

The "Derby d'Italia," a fiery meeting between Italy's historically largest two clubs, concludes the weekend's games for Simone Inzaghi's team. This match is as fiercely contested and considerably more venomous than Inter's local rivalry match with AC Milan.

It might be crucial in a close race for three spots in the elite club competition in Europe next year, as five clubs are vying for the spots, with league leaders Napoli off in the distance and cruising to the title.

The gap between Inter and Roma in fifth place, two points and two places behind Lazio before an exciting capital city match that sets up Sunday's major event is just three points. Inter are 18 points behind Napoli in second place.

The loss at Spezia on Friday ended Inter's chances of finishing in the top four. Still, all their competitors afterwards picked up wins, including Atalanta, who is six points outside of the Champions League spots and will play Empoli on Friday.

PHOTO | COURTESY Lutaro Martinez celebrates scoring for Inter Milan

Inter have been uneven this year, but they have consistently performed in the biggest games. Their tenacious goalless draw on Wednesday at Porto earned them a spot in the Champions League's final eight for the first time since 2011.

The 1-0 victory over the Portuguese on aggregate hushed the naysayers who had predicted Inzaghi's departure from Inter following the Spezia defeat.

I've played football for a long time, so I know who to listen to and where the criticism comes from, stated Inzaghi.

With 10 points behind Milan, who are in fourth place and will be visiting Udinese on Saturday, Juventus enters the match at the San Siro in an uncharacteristically low position of seventh.

Yet, if not for the 15-point fine imposed in January by the Italian Football Association for illegal transfer activity, they would be ahead of Inter in second place.

Juve intends to appeal the decision, but they will know their destiny for weeks.

With five victories in their last six league games, they have steadily moved up the standings in the interim.

PHOTO | COURTESY The long-awaited Derby in the Seria A between Juventus and Inter Milan in action

Massimiliano Allegri, the coach of Juventus, has frequently referred to the number of points his side has "on the pitch," a term frequently used by supporters to refer to the number of league titles they have won.

Officially, Juventus has 36 players, but supporters feel that the two players who were removed during the infamous "Calciopoli" match-fixing scandal should also be included.

Due to an injury, Allegri is once more without Paul Pogba, who has only featured for 35 minutes since joining France's national team from Manchester United last summer.

Watch Out For Paulo Dybala!

Paulo Dybala's importance to Roma was best illustrated last weekend when Argentina forward entered the game at halftime with his team trailing Sassuolo by a man and two goals.

He restored parity with a magnificent first-time goal, then came perilously close to doing the same with a brilliant long-range chip just under it.

Despite their 4-3 loss, everything positive about Roma's performance came from him. They will need their star player to be at his best if they want to win their local derby and increase their chances of finishing in the top four.

key figures

There are 3 points between the second and sixth.

The difference in points between Juventus and the top four is 10.



Atalanta vs. Empoli (8:30 p.m.), Sassuolo vs. Spezia (10:45pm)


Salernitana against. Bologna at 8 p.m.; Udinese vs. AC Milan at 5 p.m. (10:45pm)


Sampdoria vs Verona at 2:30, Fiorentina vs Lecce at 5:00, Torino vs Napoli at 5:00, Lazio vs Roma at 8:00, and Juventus at Inter Milan at 10:00 (10:45 pm)