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Ronaldo vs Icardi: The individual performances of these two great strikers will settle the Derby d'Italia

Ronaldo vs Icardi: The individual performances of these two great strikers will settle the Derby d'Italia

Icardi finished last season as the top scorer in Serie A but Ronaldo is leading the way in 2018/19.

IN a game that needs little introduction, Inter travel to Juventus Stadium on Friday night looking to reduce the gap at the top of the Serie A standings and catapult themselves back into the title race.

Till undefeated in domestic competition, the Old Lady is currently eight points clear of second-placed Napoli with the Nerazzurri three points further back ahead of this latest instalment of the “Derby d’Italia.”

Games between them have been known by that name since the 1960s when renowned journalist Gianni Brera declared that battles between the nation’s two most successful clubs deserved a special title. AC Milan may have since taken over their crosstown rivals in terms of trophies won, but clashes featuring these two teams are laced with a level of history, animosity and passion to rival any other derby on the peninsula.

Bitter encounters in the past have seen accusations of cheating, foul play and enough off-the-pitch drama to even spark a fist-fight in the Italian parliament, but this latest meeting will see a pair of high-level sides go head-to-head. With potential match-winners throughout both lineups it is difficult to predict which players will prove decisive, yet it is impossible to look beyond the focal point of their respective attacks.

Inter will be led out by Mauro Icardi, a sensational, deadly and vastly under-appreciated striker who was Serie A’s leading scorer and Player of the Year in 2017/18. He is unstoppable in the penalty area, unerringly accurate in front of goal, and his record of 118 goals in 198 appearances leaves little doubt as to his quality.

At the opposite end of the field however, Cristiano Ronaldo has made a stunning start to life at Juve. Nobody has scored more goals in the Italian top flight than his tally of 10 so far this term, while he has also become the first player to reach double figures so quickly since John Charles managed it back when Gianni Brera was still covering matches for La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Ronaldo is the perfect embodiment of just how good this current incarnation of Juventus truly is; a perennial champion who sits head and shoulders above their peers, a complete player with almost no flaws to his game and – whether it is the Bianconeri in the league table or the Portuguese star in the scoring charts – a heavily-fancied favourite to end 2018/19 sitting in first place.

He has pushed his new team-mates to be even better than they were before, something many of them have admitted in interviews over the last few months. “I’ve discovered is that he’s an exceptional person, a humble lad with extraordinary personality which he transmits to everyone,” Federico Bernardeschi told Tuttosport. “It’s infectious.”

“Juve was already an extraordinary club in terms of a winning mentality, with nothing to learn from anyone, but the arrival of Cristiano brought something more,” he continued. “You have to be intelligent, you’re training with the best player in the world and if you’re lucky enough to do that you need to try and steal a few things.”

CR7’s work ethic, goal scoring and desire have been well-documented, but this past week saw just how much influence he has in other areas. In the Champions League it was Mario Mandzukic who got his name on the score sheet but it was a goal (shown above) only made possible by Ronaldo’s brilliance, a combination of step overs and feints effectively cutting out the entire Valencia backline before serving the goal on a silver platter for the Croatian striker.

Then on Saturday against Fiorentina, a tense game was broken open by Rodrigo Bentancur’s excellent opening goal, but a closer examination showed that a run from Ronaldo was essential in opening up space for his midfield colleague.

The Valencia match saw the former Manchester United man register his sixth assist of the campaign, yet there is no statistical way to measure the importance of the run against La Viola. As a result it is impossible to quantify Ronaldo’s overall contribution, but it is enough to simply watch him and see how he affects the 21 other players on the field for the entire 90 minutes.

That is currently not the case with Icardi who, while clearly an excellent finisher, still makes very little impact in other areas. He has registered two assists this season to go with his eight goals, but in truth it is like comparing the world’s best sniper with the devastating impact a nuclear bomb can have.

In many ways, that makes the Inter captain an ideal analogy for his own team too; capable of being very, very good – arguably among the most consistently effective goal scorers in the world – but lacking the ability and overall talent to be considered elite.

That 11-point gap to the Bianconeri perhaps also serves to illustrate the gap between Mauro Icardi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but when Inter take on Juventus – just like any other derby – winning is all that matters.

For one night only, whichever one of these two strikers scores the decisive goal will rightly take all the plaudits.





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Adam Digby
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