Let bygones be bygones. That was the message coming from Internazionale FC and Juventus FC ahead of Saturday's top-of-the-table encounter in Serie A.
First meets second at San Siro in a fixture famed as the 'derby d'Italia'. It is the meeting of the country's most widely supported clubs, if not the most successful. Inter were last champions in 1989; Juventus in 1998 when they beat the Milan team to the title. Five points was the margin of victory, though the Nerazzurri claimed it would have been less but for a couple of contentious refereeing decisions that favoured Juventus. The 'polemica' ended with a punch-up in the Italian parliament.
If this was the Capulets and the Montagues all over again then Baz Luhrmann could not have scripted it any better. But this season has brought the clubs together again. Only a point separates them, yet the feud threatens to reignite when Marcello Lippi leads his Juventus team into the tinderbox atmosphere of the Giuseppe Meazza.
Not a happy union
Lippi was coach at the Delle Alpi in 1997/98, the last of his three Scudetto-winning seasons in Turin. He then resigned to take charge of Inter in 1999. It was not a happy union, lasting just 15 months. "I will always defend my successes with Juventus from allegations [of foul play]," said the 53-year-old, who returned to Juventus in the summer. "I would do the same at any other club I worked for. This does not mean that I did not give my best during my time at Inter. I tried everything to be a success there."
Lippi added: "The Nerazzurri fans are not going to welcome me with flowers, so the reception won't be too different from the ones I would get towards the end of my stay at the club." Internazionale were fourth under the 'Silver Fox' in 1999/2000 and reached the Italian Cup final.
Their president Massimo Moratti is more optimistic, however. "I will be happy to see him because we still have an excellent relationship," he said. "I'm not so sure about the reaction of our fans although they are usually quite generous."
'Leave the past behind'
Moratti, whose father Angelo funded Internazionale's domestic and European exploits of the 1950s and 60s, is glad to see a return on his own investment in the club. "It is a game we are all looking forward to, and this year it has an extra edge as we are both chasing the same goal," he said. "I think both clubs are going into the match trying to avoid any arguments about the past. We have to leave all that behind. Lippi is doing a good job at Juventus while we have our own business to look after."
In fact, if Lippi and Moratti get their way it will be the 1930s, not the 1990s, that they revisit. That was the decade Internazionale and Juventus dominated with seven Scudettos between them - prompting the first talk of 'il derby d'Italia'.
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