Juventus Stadium, Turin
Saturday 7th Feb, 2015, 19:45 GMT
Last week’s draw against Udinese ultimately did not have much impact on Juventus’ league standing thanks to Roma dropping points at home. Still points were dropped and they looked sluggish last Sunday. This upcoming match versus Milan is both an opportunity to make up for those points, and of course another chance for Max Allegri to get revenge on his ex-employers. Obviously, Juventus did beat Milan earlier this season. Since then, the two teams’ fortunes have gone in opposite directions.
After the winter break, Milan have won only one Serie A match out of five, the most recent one against Parma. In the other four, they have been defeated by Sassuolo, Atalanta and Lazio and they tied against Torino. In the meantime, they beat Sassuolo in Coppa Italia, but Stefano Pioli’s squad crushed their hopes of winning a title two weeks later. It’s been an awful month for them and the rookie coach Filippo Inzaghi is on the hot seat, with the rumors about his potential replacement at the end of the season gaining more and more steam.
Team news and tactical brief
Max Allegri does have a few injuries to fret over: Martin Caceres is most likely going to miss the game. Additionally Arturo Vidal is not confirmed to return from his latest knock either. Vidal’s status is questionable, but if he is healthy he will likely start. Caceres’ status, while more doubtful, is also more important in regards to the formation. If Caceres is healthy, the 4-3-1-2 is likely to appear. If not, Max Allegri will probably go with a 3-5-2. There have been some suggestions that new signing Stefano Sturaro might be used as a right back tonight. Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini are expected to start in defence. On the flanks the choices are limited. Stephan Lichsteiner is suspended, and while Roberto Pereyra can sort of play right wing back – as Simone Pepe has a few times, but, not for years – Martin Caceres is really the only available player who is comfortable there. So, if it’s not Caceres then Stefano Sturaro is expected to be on the right flank. Simone Padoin could be picked to start at right back, in a four man backline. Evra will start on the left. He will probably play the full match, as well.
Due to Vidal’s injury the midfield picture is cloudy. Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio, and Paul Pogba should start. Simone Padoin will probably start in place of Vidal if he the Chilean is still hurt. Carlos Tevez is a guarantee and he will definitely start. There is a legitimate battle between Fernando Llorente and Alvaro Morata for that other starting striker spot. Morata is favored to start over Llorente in this game as he has looked much sharper than his compatriot this season and will be looking to make an impact in this game early on.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-1-2):Buffon(Gk); Sturaro, Bonucci, Chiellini, Evra; Pirlo, Marchisio, Pogba; Vidal; Tevez, Llorente
Inzaghi prefers an offensive-minded approach, but he probably doesn’t have good enough roster to deliver it as he would like to. The defensive blunders have been countless, especially on set pieces, and the midfield lacks the needed quality, quick-thinking and sharp passing. The attack is loaded and Jeremy Menez has been a star this season, Keisuke Honda has been very prolific early in the season while Giacomo Bonaventura has been a useful jack-of-all-trades that allowed them to switch comfortably from 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1 when they wanted to. On paper, it looks good, but the problems lie elsewhere. The defense probably started to tail off when Alex first got injured and then had some small relapses and never quite managed to play as well as he was doing in the very first part of the season. Due the suspensions of Philippe Mexes and the injuries to Ignazio Abate, Mattia De Sciglio, Cristian Zapata and Daniele Bonera, they’ll be forced to field a four-man defensive line composed basically by three centre-backs. Alex and newcomer Gabriel Paletta will be in the heart of the defence. Adil Rami has played as a right back this season so he should be confident with his new position this time around while Luca Antonelli on the left would add some pace.
With Riccardo Montolivo and Nigel De Jong unlikely to play, Andrea Poli, Micheal Essien and Sulley Muntari will have the task to hold the fort in the middle of the pitch. It’s blatant that there’s not much creativity there and this is where Milan have struggled the most. Honda and Bonaventura are slated to flank Menez in the trident, even though it’s possible that Cerci will be able to win the starting spot in place of Bonaventura, who’s nursing a bruised shoulder, or with the former Atalanta player in the midfield. The numbers of Milan aren’t horrible: 31 goals scored (5th best in Serie A) and 26 conceded (tied-8th), but the last few performances have been frankly disheartening and they inexplicably dropped too many points that would have been very helpful in the race for a Champions League spot (that was wide open until Napoli broke away from the pack). They are in eight position, ten points behind Benitez’s side and five points behind the fifth place occupied by Sampdoria, which guarantees the qualification to Europa League. Milan have quality, especially up front, but they have been a one-trick pony so far. If you take away the counter-attacking game, the first option, they become predictable due to the lack of a harmonious team play and of a smart distributor in the middle: 52% of ball possession per game is historically abysmal for possession-oriented team like Milan. Their defense, not only their defenders, is pretty sloppy and suffers when put under pressure. They concede more than 14 shots per game, which is worse than Empoli, Parma and Empoli (13th overall). As far as performances on the road are concerned, they are in the middle of the group with two wins, six draws and two losses.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-1-2):Diego Lopez(Gk); Rami, Alex,Paletta, Antonelli; Poli, Essien, Muntari; Honda, Menez, Bonaventura
This will be the 160th Serie A meeting between Juventus and AC Milan: the Bianconeri lead by 57 wins to 48
Juventus have won each of their last four league encounters with AC Milan, keeping a clean sheet in three of these
Juve have won their last three Serie A matches against AC Milan at home, scoring on average two goals per game
Players to Watch Out For
Andrea Pirlo (Juventus)
Veteran playmaker Andrea Pirlo was offered a short-term contract by the Rossoneri as his deal neared its expiration, but felt he was worth much more and left following a decade of service. He then crossed the divide to achieve legendary status with the Turin giants and continues pulling the strings to devastating effect at the age of 35.
Jeremy Menez (AC Milan)
Having made a bright start to his career with Milan, Jeremy Menez has a final chance to resurrect a career that has so far disappointed. With twelve goals this season in Serie A mostly as a ‘False 9’, Menez is soon becoming a fan favourite. With Mario Balotelli, Fernando Torres both gone and Mattia Destro suspended, Menez has made the central position in the attacking trio of Inzaghi’s 4-3-3 his own. At 27, the talented forward still has time to resurrect his career and regain his status as the gem of ‘Generation 1987’ but much depends on how he takes it from here.
Juventus 1–1 AC Milan
Juventus dropped two points without suffering in terms of the table as Roma also drew. The Bianconeri are still 7 points clear and looking in better form than any of their rivals. The victory over Parma let AC Milan back into the top 10, but beating the last team in the table while they are also going through financial problems is by no means a sign of recovery. As it happened with Lazio twice recently, this game could get ugly for the Rossoneri since despite a lot of movement in the transfer market in January, they don’t really seem to have improved their squad, especially in midfield. The rivalry with Juventus may have been weakened by the recent poor results of the visitors, but do not expect Max Allegri to tell his players to let up against his former club.
Blast From the Past
In the first match of the season, when both teams were still searching for their identities, Juventus won 1-0 with a Tevez goal in the second half.