JUVENTUS
v
AC MILAN

Stadio Olimpico Di Torio, Turin
5th March 2011

Two of Italy’s most successful clubs are all set to square off against each other once again. The rivalry between Milan and Juventus is not as heated as the rivalries both clubs share with Internazionale. Nonetheless their clashes have often produced some memorable matches in the past. The current table positions of the two clubs are sharply contrasting; Milan is enjoying pole position in the table while Juventus is languishing in the 7th spot.

Team News and Tactical Brief

Juventus

The Old Lady’s season is going from bad to worse. The 2-0 loss to Lecce was followed by another horror show against Bologna – this time in a home game. Former Juve striker Marco Di Vaio dished out a master class performance in the second half scoring two goals as his team won 0-2. In all fairness, Juventus did play pretty well in the first half and came close to scoring more than once. Vincenzo Iaquinta hit the post from six yards out while Alessandro Matri scuffed a good chance. Before second half, Gigi Delneri replaced Iaquinta with Luca Toni – a move that eventually backfired. Iaquinta’s mobility upfront was being missed as Bologna gradually came back into the match. Delneri tried to play a 4-2-4 with Krasic playing upfront with Toni, Del Piero and Matri, this didn’t open up Bologna’s defence but it left Juve’s midfield short on personnel. The lack of defensive cover was evident when the offside trap failed leading to first Di Vaio goal.

Gigi Delneri needs to get his team back into winning form as soon as possible. Juve is losing ground in European football with passing games and missing out on Europe as the new stadium opening next season can have negative impacts. Juve’s defence has been playing quite poorly in 2011. Fielding Chiellini as left-back and having Barzagli partner Bonucci in central defence was successful initially but has failed in last 2 matches. Barzagli’s poor performances has made the defence extremely fragile and Chiellini is unable to cover for him from the flanks. There is a chance that Armand Traore or Zdenek Grygera will slot in as a left back against Milan while Chiellini moves back into central defence.

Football Fans Know Better

Alberto Aquilani is out for this game so Claudio Marchisio will partner Felipe Melo in the heart of midfield. Melo was probably Juve’s best player in the first half of their last game but fizzled out in second period. Marchisio looked a bit out of sorts against Bologna, playing as a left sided midfielder for so many matches seems to have lessened his impact as a central midfielder. Jorge Martinez was one of the worst players on the pitch against Bologna – he is yet to justify his hefty price tag. He did play pretty well against Milan in San Siro and Juve fans would be hoping for a repeat of that performance. Milos Krasic’s sharp decline is bound to cause headaches to Delneri, Krasic’s game has become increasingly predictable and he has been easily marked by opponent full-backs in last few matches.

Alessandro Matri is a sure starter – Del Piero or Iaquinta will partner him upfront. Other than Matri, none of the strikers have been in good form in 2011. Even the ageless Del Piero has looked very rusty in last few matches. Against the statistically best defence in Serie A, the frontline needs to step up.

Possible Starting XI (4-4-2): Buffon, Sorensen, Bonucci, Chiellini, Grygera, Krasic, Melo, Marchisio, Martinez, Matri, Iaquinta

Milan

Milan had suffered a slump in form in 2011 – dropping points in numerous matches and losing the UCL home leg. They were up against second placed Napoli at San Siro last week. Allegri’s men dished out an almost perfect performance – thumping Napoli 3-0 and sending out a message to the rest of Serie A. Alessandro Pato scored a delightful chip while Ibrahimovic and Boateng also got on the scoresheet. Milan defence and Marc van Bommel also played a big part in neutralizing one of the best attacks in the peninsula. Overall it was a performance which should befit a team gunning for Scudetto glory.

Allegri is most likely to field his 4-3-1-2 with Robinho playing in the hole behind Ibrahimovic and Pato. Alessandro Nesta and Thiago Silva is probably the best central defensive pairing in Serie A right now. However, Milan’s weakness in full-back positions is well documented. Juve’s winger’s haven’t been playing well recently but if Krasic or Martinez does hit form in Milan game, the Rossoneri will struggle to keep them quiet on the flanks.

The great Juventus teams of 1970s used to field as many as 3 mediani at the same time – Milan can do the same against Juve in this match. Kevin-Prince Boateng has been one of the most consistent players for Milan this season. He has also popped in with an odd goal from time to time. Van Bommel with his immense experience forms a good combination with Rino Gattuso, who has rediscovered his form under Allegri.

Pato – A dangerman

Milan’s front three will hold the key to this match. Together they have scored 35 goals with Ibrahimovic leading with 14 goals. Their inter-linking has been breath taking at times – not surprising given the amount of natural talent Ibra, Pato and Robinho possess. Pato was absent when Milan faced Juve last time while Ibrahimovic was kept under a tight leash by Bonucci. Antonio Cassano has made an instant impact in the Red and Black jersey – providing 5 assists.

Possible Starting XI (4-3-1-2): Abbiati, Abate, Silva, Nesta, Jankulovsky, Boateng, Gattuso, van Bommel; Robinho, Pato, Ibrahimovic

Key Clashes

Giorgio Chiellini vs Zlatan Ibrahimovic:

Chiellini has a wonderful record against Ibracadabra. The lanky Swede hasn’t managed to score for a single time against Juventus with Chiellini on the pitch. Ibra has struggled to cope with Chiellini’s take-no-prisoner style defending. Will Ibra be finally able to get past Chiellini or will the centre-back have the last laugh once again? This will certainly be an engrossing battle.

Felipe Melo vs Mark van Bommel:

Felipe Melo’s flawless performances against the likes of Andrea Pirlo and Sneijder have ensured Juve’s good record in big matches this season. With the absence of Alberto Aquilani by his side, Melo will have to shoulder extra responsibility to starting Juve’s attacks along with Marchisio. He will be up against an extremely experienced and wily veteran in van Bommel. Van Bommel has never backed down from playing dirty when needed and he can try to ignite Melo’s temper. It will be interesting to see how the clash between these two hard-men ends up.

TheHardTackle’s PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Milos Krasic (Juventus): Krasic missed the first leg against Milan due to suspension. If Juve is to get a positive result from this match then he needs to play a big part. His pace can cause havoc on Milan’s defensive weakness in the flanks.

Will the Serbian finally hit form ?

Pato (Milan): The Brazilian has been one of the best players for Milan in recent matches. While his talent was never under scrutiny, his consistency has often been questioned in past. This season Pato seems to be slowly maturing into a truly world class player.

Rewind – What happened in the first leg?

Juventus was hit by a severe personnel crisis before the match in San Siro. Krasic was suspended while Chiellini was ruled out hours before the kick off. Milan dominated possession but it was Juve who took the lead through a fabulous Quagliarella header from a Paolo De Ceglie cross. Milan continued to create chances but was unable to finish them off. Felipe Melo and Leonardo Bonucci played out of their skins with some timely interceptions. Juve’s injury crisis got worse when Martinez and Paolo De Ceglie limped off – Simone Pepe was drafted as a make shift left-back for last few minutes of the match. Del Piero made it 2-0 when Momo Sissoko fluffed up a good chance after being one on one with Abbiati. Ibrahimovic did score a consolation goal but it was not enough to prevent a somewhat shock win for Bianconeri.

TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION

Juventus 1-1 AC Milan

TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xv2-BXqSYM