Juventus Stadium, Turin
Sunday, April 21; 18:45 Hrs GMT
Juventus bounced back from their European set-back against Bayern Munich by dishing out an authoritative and dominating display against Lazio. With nothing but the league to focus on for now, Juventus will be on the lookout to close this year’s Serie A title as soon as possible. With only 6 more rounds to go, Juventus presently lead the Serie A table with a healthy 11-point lead.
Milan will be chasing three points and Champions League qualification when they take on Juventus in their own backyard. With the defending champions undefeated in the last 7 matches, Milan need to pull all the stops to come out victorious from the fortress known as Juventus Stadium.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Juventus will be missing the likes of Anelka, Chiellini, Giovinco and Pepe due to injury. Even though their unbeaten run last season has not been replicated this time, they have been the top team in Serie A and have remained at the first spot ever since the beginning of the season. Conte’s absence in the initial phase did not slow them down as they crushed opponents left, right and centre. Their European sojourn ended on a bad note, but they will take heart from the fact that it was Bayern Munich, who showed them the door with two back-to-back top-notch displays.
Juventus have played with a five-man midfield for most part of their season and till now, they have lost only 4 matches. By squeezing in five men in the centre, Juventus ensure maximum possession which helps in creating attacking chances for their forwards to latch onto. They have been exceptional in scoring from all possible opportunities – free-kicks, long shots, through balls and set pieces. However, other than their attacking options, they have also managed to stop oppositions from scoring with their short passing and possession-based football. They are very strong in stealing the ball from their opponents and creating an attack as can be seen in the case of Vidal.
Juventus will start with a 3-5-1-1 formation for this match with Buffon manning the posts. The three-man defence will comprise of Barzagli on the right, Bonucci through the center and Peluso on the left. Their five-man midfield will see Lichtsteiner and Asamoah playing on the right and left wing respectively with Pirlo pulling all the strings in the midfield. He will be supported by Vidal and Pogba. The forward line will see the pairing of Marchisio and Vucinic, who might be looking to replicate his pants-off celebration should he score against Milan.
Probable Starting Line-up (3-5-1-1): Buffon(GK); Barzagli, Bonucci, Peluso; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pirlo, Pogba, Asamoah; Marchisio; Vucinic
Milan will be missing the likes of De Jong due to injury and Balotelli and Flamini due to suspension. Balotelli will remain suspended for one more game after this one due to his altercation with the match officials while Flamini’s straight red means he will miss what is perhaps the most important game for Milan. Also, Abate, Boateng and Bojan remain in doubt for this fixture, having picked up knocks recently.
Allegri will field a 4-3-3 formation for this match with De Sciglio replacing Abate at the right-back position. His shocking decision of benching El Shaarawy in the previous match was met with hushed rumors of a bust-up, but those were refuted first by Allegri himself and then by El Shaarawy in his recent interview on Google Hangout.
In their previous match this season, a Robinho penalty in the first half was enough to settle the score in favor of Milan and resulted in Juventus’ second loss this season. However, a lot has changed since then, and from being relegation candidates, Milan have staked their claim to finish in the top three.
Abbiati will lead the charge from the back and his experience will be invaluable in this match. The Milan back-line will be formed by De Sciglio on the right, Zapata and Mexes as the central defensive duo and Constant on the left. Should Abate recover in time, he can start on the right in place of De Sciglio. The midfield will see the likes of Ambrosini and Muntari supporting Montolivo, who will play through the middle. It will be a battle of the midfields between the two teams with Juventus going for a five-man midfield against a three-man for Milan. The onus will be on Montolivo to drive Milan’s attack from the back since Ambrosini is likely to be more involved in keeping out Juventus’ attacks.
In the likely absence of Boateng, Niang will start the match as a right forward. The need for a trequartista has been removed by Allegri in the present system, but with Pazzini present as the center-forward, it might be required to play someone behind him, since Pazzini is more of a ‘give-me-the-ball-inside-the-box’ kind of a player. El Shaarawy should return in place of Robinho and he will start the match from the left.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-3): Abbiati(GK); De Sciglio, Zapata, Mexes, Constant; Ambrosini, Montolivo, Muntari; Niang, Pazzini, El Shaarawy
Player to Watch Out For
Arturo Vidal (Juventus)
Despite recent comments from Carlo Ancelotti, Vidal has been a hot property all over Europe this season. Although Pirlo has been indispensable to Juventus, it has been Vidal’s undying energy and his ability to be at two places at once which has been making opponents lose sleep. His offensive abilities are unquestionable and presently he has the highest number of assists for Juventus with 7.
In spite of his offensive acumen, his defensive displays have also been top-notch and presently he is the highest tackling player in the Juventus team with 5.2 tackles per match. Milan can expect a hard time with this coyote running all over the pitch.
Riccardo Montolivo (Milan)
Much like Juventus, Milan too will heavily rely on their midfield to turn things in their favour. The last time the two sides met, Montolivo dished out a magnificent performance at San Siro – perhaps his best in the Milan colours. In the absence of Flamini, Montolivo will be deployed on the right and will be involved much more defensively as well apart from engineering the attacking moves. Montolivo will be the one to cover for De Sciglio when the latter surges forward from the right flank and will also need to stay alert to stop Pogba from causing any real damage.
Juventus 1 – 1 Milan
This match has very different implications for both the teams. While Juventus will be looking to wrap up the Serie A title, Milan need points to ensure Champions League qualification. A lot is at stake in this match, and both teams will be looking to score the early goal and settle things down quickly. More than the impact on the points table, a Juve-Milan clash shall always remain an intense one for the immense pride that is at stake.