The biggest game in Italy this weekend sees old rivals Juventus and AC Milan lock horns against each other in what will be an intriguing encounter. TheHardTackle brings to you another edition of the (c)Rival Rendezvous before this massive game. Representing the Old Lady will be our resident Juventus author Chelston D’souza (CD), who is wearing his favorite Alessandro Del Piero jersey. Against him is our Milan author Amlan Chaudhary (AC) donning his beloved Andrea Pirlo shirt.
Without wasting any more time, let’s see what our Representatives have in store for us. Since Juve are the home-team, Chelston will begin firing his set of questions at his confident looking rival.
CD: My first question is, what do you think will be Milan’s tactical approach in this game? Will Allegri order his men to go all out from the start and take the game to Juventus or will he look to play on the counter?
AC: Milan would try to keep the ball as much as possible and look to attack on the break. Finally, we are having something happening in the midfield for us, in the form of Van Bommel, who was simply exceptional in the last match against Napoli. The return of Flamini and Boateng has also been good for us. Taking the game to the opposition won’t help Milan much, so it’s better to play on the counter. I’m expecting a 4-3-1-2 formation with Van Bommel playing just in front of the center backs. Flamini and Gattuso would take up the remaining places in midfield.
CD: Milan’s obvious Achilles’ heel is the inconsistency of their fullbacks. How do you think Milan will cope with Krasic’s blistering pace and Martinez’s trickery? Do keep in mind that the Uruguayan’s best performance this season was the one against Milan.
AC: Fullbacks have been Milan’s bane for quite some time, but I don’t think it will come back to haunt us in the match against Juventus. Hopefully, we will be able to keep Martinez at bay for most of the match and minimize Krasic’s impact on the outcome of the game.
Jankulovski or Antonini will play as left-back and Abate will be at right-back. The way to stop either of Krasic or Martinez would be NOT to do a man-marking on them, but deploy a zonal defense. That way, players wont be out of position when Krasic/Martinez zip past them. Also, the center-back pairing of Nesta-Silva is extremely dependable and Silva wont commit the mistake that Yepes did against Spurs. Along with the defenders, there are also Flamini and Gattuso, who very well can suppress any threats that those two can offer us.
CD: Milan’s star man this season has been Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the Rossoneri owe a lot of their current success to the big Swede. However, over the years, he has struggled against Juve and in particular against Giorgio Chiellini. The Italian has managed to neutralize Ibra’s threat whenever they’ve been on the field against each other. How would Ibra try to get past him? Do you think he will get his name on the score-sheet?
AC: Ibrahimovic has been off-form lately, but it’s only a matter of time before he starts to find the back of the net again. But, be warned, my friend, if you focus your entire defensive line on one man, you are in for a lot of trouble. Pato has been scoring goals by the handful lately and his last goal against Napoli is a testament to fact that you can always expect Pato to squeeze out a winner. The troika of Ibra-Pato-Robinho has been successful for us, and so has been Ibra-Cassano-Robinho. While Cassano is likely to start from the bench this time round, but once he comes on, be ready for some “samba magic” from Robinho and Cass.
CD: With the Champions League trip to London right around the corner, Milan face an uphill task against Spurs to say the least. Will Allegri rest any players with the midweek game in mind or will he field a full strength team and give the Scudetto a higher priority?
AC: Oh, come on! We never said UCL was easy, no matter which team comes our way. We are only a goal down, and when we score at White Hart Lane, it will come down to one single goal to take us a step closer to the coveted trophy. Also, we have Boateng back for us, so Spurs can expect nothing less than a war. Here’s a sneaky forecast for you – Pippo is back in training and he’s hitting the gym as well. Expect him to come on in the 80th minute and score the winner! About resting players, it will really serve us better if we play cup-tied players for this match. The likes of Emanuelson, Vila, Cassano should come on in the second half. If you look at the signings so far, Milan is looking to build a team for the future and indeed the Scudetto is important for us this year. We cannot rest at the top – we have to consolidate the lead.
CD: If you had to single out one Juventus player that may trouble Milan the most, who would that be? Which is the one player from the Bianconeri you would want in Rossoneri colors? Finally, what is your prediction?
AC: The one player I think could worry Milan would be Quagliarella. But, sadly he’s out with injury. Other than him, Matri would be a threat for us and the center back duo of Nesta and Silva would have to work overtime on him. If I had to pick one player I want in Rossoneri colors, it would be Quagliarella. He would fit in perfectly in the team. I think Milan would win this game if they play exactly like they played against Napoli. And for Juventus to win, they have to keep their concentration intact for the entire game.
With this, the first round comes to an end. AC looks quite content with his answers to some tricky questions there; it’s now his turn to put CD on the back-foot.
AC: Juventus has lost back to back matches against less fancied opponents with the same scoreline. Also, since the winter break, Juventus has only won three out of ten matches so far. What is going wrong?
CD: There are quite a few things that haven’t gone our way this year. Two players, who played a key role in our successful start to the season, have lost form. I am of course talking about Krasic and Aquilani. The former suffering from fatigue as he hasn’t really been rested since the start of the season. He arrived from the Russian Premier League and also represented Serbia in the World Cup, which means he hasn’t had a real break in over a year. Our top marksman Quagliarella suffered a terrible injured in the game against Parma; he has been sorely missed, not just for his knack of scoring ‘play-station’ goals but also for the contribution he made to the team. The absence of his tireless running and tactical astuteness has cost us dear. Juve’s mentality against the smaller teams hasn’t been good enough as well. When it comes to the bigger teams, Juve have always put up tremendous performances this season but have faltered against the less fancied opponents. It is something that needs to be sorted out right away.
CD: The stats clearly speak for themselves I think. 3 goals in 5 matches is not a bad return for a new signing thrown into the deep end, right from the time he arrived. Matri is definitely an improvement over Amauri, who quite frankly had to leave Juve for his own benefit and also for Juve’s. Given the resources Marotta had in his hands, Matri is a very good buy and if he continues to score for us, I have no doubt Juve will exercise his purchase clause in the summer.
AC: In the last game against Bologna, Juventus played with four forwards (Del Piero, Matri, Toni, Iaquinta) for an entire half of the match. Signs of desperation?
CD: I wouldn’t call it a sign of desperation but a tactical error by Mister Del Neri. This mistake by the manager definitely cost us the game. There wasn’t any balance and we even conceded a goal on the counter, which broke the team completely. However, the team did create many chances, but they were criminally not converted; had they been converted, no one would have questioned Del Neri’s tactics.
CD: Make no mistake about it, Juve’s goal this season has always been a Champions League spot, so they will be targeting a fourth place finish. However, I do agree that it will be very difficult to achieve, given the situation Juve are in right now. They cannot afford to drop anymore points, beginning with Milan on Saturday night and the next few matches will be decisive.
CD: As I’ve mentioned before, his injury has definitely affected Juve. It’s always a huge blow when you lose your top goal scorer, and he has been missed. His overall contribution to the team was remarkable. When not in possession, he would drop back in midfield and make the team harder to break down. He would run his socks off for the team’s cause. Also, he had a knack of scoring match-winning goals. The one against Milan comes first to mind.