Juventus face Inter eight points behind their fierce rivals and Andrea Barzagli says they cannot afford a defeat on Sunday.
Andrea Barzagli says defeat for Juventus against Inter could prove fatal in their Serie A title defence this season.
Massimiliano Allegri's side have struggled for form in the early part of the campaign and have won just twice in the league so far, leaving them 10 points adrift of current league leaders Fiorentina.
Second-placed Inter can put an 11-point gap between themselves and Juve should they win Sunday's clash at San Siro and Barzagli believes such a deficit could be too big to make up between now and next May.
"If we want to keep even a minimal amount of hope, we need to play and get out of San Siro without a defeat," he said to Sky.
"We're at the beginning of the season but to be eight points behind Inter is too much. If they get a result it'll be a problem for us.
"They are a difficult team to beat and we'll have to prepare to be at our best."
Juve won back-to-back games against Sevilla and Bologna prior to the international break but Barzagli says they must continue to work on their performance level.
"We're improving. We played two good games before the break but we still have a lot of work," added the 34-year-old.