Saturday, September 20, 18:45 GMT
Both Milan and Juventus ushered in new eras at the beginning of this season, and they’ve begun on a bright note thus far. Pippo Inzaghi has transformed what looked like a fading side into a dangerous counter attacking unit that seems to be able to score at will. Max Allegri, who was formerly at Milan, was a surprise appointment in Turin, but he has comfortably dispelled all worries that were surrounding the club after Antonio Conte’s departure.
Milan have already faced tough competition in the form of Lazio, while Juventus dealt with Udinese as well as make the tricky trip to Malmo. Both these clubs are yet to drop a single game this season but the real test will be this fixture.
Can Allegri return to haunt his former side or will Inzaghi’s Milan continue their resurgence to the top of Italian football?
Team news and tactical brief
Inzaghi’s side have been hugely disorganized in terms of their structure in the two games thus far, but this has paid huge dividend. The front three seamlessly shift positions, transitions from defense to attack are a lot more urgent and meaningful, and the three man midfield is finally providing the necessary defensive cover.
But when they go up against Juventus on Saturday, they will face off against a hugely disciplined unit. The midfield three that Inzaghi deploys will have their hands full at the San Siro. Full backs Ignazio Abate and Mattia de Sciglio will also need to be at their defensive best when dealing with Juventus’ marauding wing backs.
Diego Lopez will be unavailable after picking up an embarrassing injury in the game against Parma, which means Michael Agazzi will make his debut. Daniele Bonera and Alex will both miss this massive fixture due to suspension and injury respectively. Adil Rami and Cristian Zapata are expected to start in the center of defense. Going up against the physicality of Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez will be a tough task, but if Milan are to return to their glory days, this duo will have to start with a fine showing on Saturday. The farcical defensive performance at the Ennio Tardini cannot be repeated.
Nigel De Jong, Sulley Muntari and Andrea Poli should continue to man the midfield. The tenacious Dutchman will be the focal point defensively and could be faced with keeping the returning Arturo Vidal in check. Muntari and Poli have looked comfortable going forward but their defensive abilities will be seriously questioned by Allegri’s unit.
While Milan’s defending has been horrendous in their first two games, their attack has been a joy to watch. Jeremy Menez has been sensational through the middle, Stephan El Shaarawy superb on the left and Keisuke Honda sublime in a narrower role down the right. Link up play has been phenomenal between these three, and El Shaarawy’s return to training is hugely promising. Giacomo Bonaventura proved an able replacement for El Shaarawy last weekend and would be worth some playing time on Satruday. Going up against a disciplined Juventus defense will be their hardest task yet but if there’s an attacking unit in Italy that can dismantle Juventus, it is Milan’s.
Probable starting lineup (4-3-3): Agazzi; Abate, Rami, Zapata, De Sciglio; Poli, De Jong, Muntari; Honda, Menez, El Shaarawy
Acclimatizing to the Allegri way was expected to have been a tedious job but the Italian coach’s decision to stick to Conte’s 3-5-2 has made the change in coach seem inconsequential thus far. Juventus will be buoyed by the likely return of Vidal, who will be the engine of this side. While Kwadwo Asamoah and Roberto Pereyra have been decent replacements, Vidal’s effect on a game cannot be overstated.
Claudio Marchisio and Paul Pogba will complete the central midfield three. They will be flanked by Stephan Lichtsteiner on the right and Patrice Evra on the left. The Frenchman’s experience could be hugely useful, especially since he will be up against the regularly careless Abate.
Juventus will have Gianluigi Buffon in goal with a three man defense in front of him. Giorgio Chiellini returns from a three match ban, and will start alongside Martin Caceres and Leonardo Bonucci. The Italian champions are yet to concede a single goal this season but these four will have to up their game by a couple of notches if they are to keep Milan’s rampaging attack at bay.
Tevez and Llorente should start up front. The Argentine striker has been in good form this season and even managed to end his Champions League goal draught in midweek. Tevez’s ability to drop off to collect the ball and link up from deep will be hugely crucial, while Llorente’s heading prowess could haunt Milan’s backline too.
Juventus’ midfield holds the key to this fixture but any wastefulness on the attacking front will prove to be very costly, especially since Milan seem to be able to score at will.
Probable starting lineup (3-5-2): Buffon; Caceres, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Marchisio, Vidal, Pogba, Evra; Tevez, Llorente
Player to watch out for
Carlos Tevez (Juventus)
The former Manchester City striker has been in top form thus far, netting three goals in as many games. Probably the most complete striker in the Serie A today, Tevez will be a massive headache for the Milan defense. Milan’s De Jong also sees Tevez as their opponents’ primary threat: “He is a true warrior and is a crucial piece of the current Juventus.”
Milan 1-1 Juventus
As carefree as Inzaghi’s Milan have been this season, they will probably adopt a more cautious approach against the defending champions. Juventus don’t look hugely adventurous under Allegri and their disciplined outlook will be very hard to break down. If you’re expecting an epic showdown with goals at both ends, you’ve probably come to the wrong place, but rest assured, for a grueling tactical battle is on the cards.