Juventus will be aiming to reclaim the top spot in the 2019-20 Serie A when they welcome a struggling AC Milan outfit to the Allianz Stadium this weekend.

Reigning Serie A champions Juventus will be hoping to go into the final international break of 2019 with their unbeaten run intact as they gear up to take on AC Milan at home on Sunday night.

Maurizio Sarri’s side started the week as the league leaders, but have slipped down to the second spot after rivals Inter Milan beat Verona 2-1 on Saturday. With just two points separating the two sides, a win on Sunday will see Juventus jump right back to the top. The hard-fought 2-1 win over Lokomotiv Moscow in the Champions League earlier in the week will have taken a toll, though, and fatigue might play a factor.

AC Milan find themselves in the 13th spot in the table, having collected just 13 points from their 11 matches so far. The appointment of Stefano Pioli as the manager last month hasn’t had the desired effect for the Rossoneri as of yet, given that they have just won one of their four games under him, with their most recent fixture ending in a 2-1 defeat to Lazio. They will be hoping to come away with at least a point against the champions this weekend.

Ahead of this enticing match-up between the two heavyweights of Italian football, we at The Hard Tackle take a closer look at both the teams.

Team News & Tactics

Juventus

Sarri is sweating over the fitness of Cristiano Ronaldo (Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

Sarri is sweating over the fitness of Cristiano Ronaldo (Photo by Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images)

Star forward Cristiano Ronaldo is a doubt for the game with a knee problem. Even if the Portuguese maverick is passed fit, it seems unlikely that Sarri would risk starting him on Sunday night. Matthijs de Ligt is back in training after missing the midweek game with an ankle problem. Giorgio Chiellini remains sidelined for the reigning champions.

Wojciech Szczesny ought to hold on to his spot between the sticks for Juventus, while Leonardo Bonucci is a guaranteed starter in defence. Despite de Ligt’s return to fitness, there is a chance that Sarri might stick with Daniele Rugani again on Sunday, while Juan Cuadrado could return at right-back in place of Danilo. Alex Sandro is a certainty at left-back.

Bosnian midfielder Miralem Pjanic is one of the first names on the Juventus team sheet. He will be key in dictating tempo for the hosts from the middle of the park. Supporting him on either side should be Blaise Matuidi, who did not start the midweek game, and Aaron Ramsey, who was on the scoresheet against Lokomotiv Moscow.

Douglas Costa scored the late winner in the Champions League clash which could earn him a starting berth in the hole behind the two strikers on Sunday. With Ronaldo’s involvement a doubt, Gonzalo Higuain should pair up with compatriot Paulo Dybala in Juventus’ two-pronged attack against Milan.

Probable Lineup (4-3-1-2): Szczesny; Cuadrado, Bonucci, Rugani, Sandro; Ramsey, Pjanic, Matuidi; Costa; Dybala, Higuain

AC Milan

AC Milan will be without the services of winger Samu Castillejo and defender Mateo Musacchio for the trip to Juventus due to injuries, while midfielder Franck Kessie has been axed from the squad by the manager due to disciplinary issues. Suso is back in the squad for the Rossoneri after missing the Lazio game.

Pioli usually sets his teams up in a 4-3-3 formation, but experimented with a 3-4-2-1 setup in training on the eve of the game and could opt to go with that shape on Sunday.

There is no looking past the ever-present figure of Gianluigi Donnarumma between the sticks for Milan, while the three-man backline should comprise of Leo Duarte, captain Alessio Romagnoli and full-back Ricardo Rodriguez, who will be playing in a makeshift centre-back position.

Andrea Conti should pip Davide Calabria to the starting spot as the right-sided wing-back while former Real Madrid man Theo Hernandez should get the nod as the left wing-back. Manning the centre of the park for the visitors on Sunday ought to be the summer signing duo of Rade Krunic and Ismael Bennacer, with Lucas Paqueta also an option at Pioli’s disposal.

The two attacking midfield slots on the field ought to be filled by the returning Suso and Hakan Calhanoglu, with Ante Rebic providing options from the bench. Spearheading the Milan attack against Juventus should be Krzysztof Piatek.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Donnarumma; Duarte, Romagnoli, Rodriguez; Conti, Bennacer, Krunic, Hernandez; Suso, Calhanoglu; Piatek

Key Stats

  • This will be the 169th Serie A meeting between Juventus and AC Milan. The Bianconeri have the upper hand in head-to-head record, having won 65 matches, while Milan have picked up 49 wins (D54).
  • Eight of Juventus’ nine victories in Serie A this season have been by one goal margin: more than any other side in the top-5 European Leagues in 2019-20.
  • AC Milan have lost three of their first five top-flight encounters away from home this season (W2), as many defeats as in their previous 14 away games in the competition.
  •  No side has gained more points thanks to goals scored in the last 30 minutes of play in Serie A 2019-20 than Juventus (also Atalanta). In contrast, AC Milan have lost more points in the same period than any other side (seven).
  • Excluding blocked shots, AC Milan have the lowest shooting accuracy percentage (35%) in the Serie A this season whilst Juventus are fourth in this ranking (50%).

Player to Watch

Douglas Costa

On the comeback trail (Photo by ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images)

On the comeback trail (Photo by Alexander Nemenov/AFP via Getty Images)

It has been a difficult start to the season for the high-flying Brazilian winger, with injury keeping him out of action for over a month. This has meant that Costa has made just four Serie A appearances so far this term, chipping in with two assists.

But, against Lokomotiv Moscow earlier this week, in what was just his second appearance since returning to full fitness, the 29-year-old went on to score the winning goal for Juventus deep in injury time after coming on as a substitute.

Having slotted in an unfamiliar position as a central attacking midfielder against Lokomotiv, Costa managed to impress the manager with his understanding and adaptation to the role. Set to be rewarded with a starting berth against AC Milan, he will be keen on putting in another eye-catching display as he looks to establish himself as a regular under Maurizio Sarri.

Prediction

Juventus 2-0 AC Milan

Juventus haven’t exactly hit top gear under Maurizio Sarri yet, with their finishing letting them down somewhat so far this season. However, they have managed to stay unbeaten in all competitions and have won nine of their eleven league matches so far.

AC Milan, in contrast, have struggled to put together a good run of results and things haven’t improved much since the appointment of Stefano Pioli as the manager last month. With the Rossoneri still adapting to the ways of the new manager, Juventus are the overwhelming favourites to win this game and we at The Hard Tackle are predicting a run-of-the-mill 2-0 win for the champions.

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