League leaders AC Milan host fifth-placed Juventus at the San Siro in one of the most exciting Serie A matches of the calendar year.
Juventus, who hope to win their tenth consecutive Scudetto, travel to league leaders AC Milan who are hopeful of winning their first league title in ten years. AC Milan, under Stefano Pioli, look like a team on a mission as they remain unbeaten after 15 gameweeks of football in Serie A.
With a ten-point gap between the two sides as of now, with a game in hand for the Bianconeri, both teams would be vying for three points for different reasons. Juventus, despite having lost just one match, have endured some disappointing draws this season and cannot afford to lose points in this game.
AC Milan, on the other hand, are in the first place just a point ahead of local rivals Inter Milan, who play Sampdoria on Wednesday. For them, this fixture is about extending the gap between themselves and Juventus whilst maintaining their lead over Inter at the top of the table, and of course to maintain their perfect record this campaign.
AC Milan picked up an impressive victory against Benevento despite being down to ten men on the weekend. The Rossoneri showed immense mentality and determination as the players worked for each other and earned three important points.
Whereas, Juventus turned their fortunes around with a comfortable 4-1 victory over Udinese after the 3-0 debacle before the winter break versus Fiorentina. The Old Lady would be hoping to build on that performance and put together a good run of results in the new year.
Team News & Tactics
With an exciting fixture around the corner, Milan manager Stefano Pioli has downplayed the importance of the fixture on matchday 16 and claimed that it is still early days in the season and that this fixture is not detrimental to any final outcome.
Having said that, Pioli made sure to clarify that there is no amount of complacency in the Milan squad and that they are tackling each game at a time with equal importance; an approach that seems to be working for the Rossoneri.
Pioli is yet again without several key players as Zlatan Ibrahimovic continues to be sidelined with a calf injury. Ismael Bennacer, Alexis Saelemaekers and Matteo Gabbia too are ruled out for this fixture. Sandro Tonali adds to Milan’s woes after his suspension in the game versus Benevento.
Thankfully to Milan’s aid, Theo Hernandez returns from suspension and should play a key role on the left side of the defence. The return of Simon Kjaer alongside the solid Alessio Romagnoli was crucial in Milan’s previous game and the duo is expected to replicate their showings come Wednesday. Davide Calabria should start on the right with the crucial Gianluigi Donnarumma in goal.
In midfield, talisman Franck Kessie should be partnered by Rade Krunic in the absence of Tonali and Bennacer. Hakan Calhanoglu should continue to be deployed as a central playmaker, while Ante Rebic is expected to start on the left. Samu Castillejo. who returned from injury and impressed in a short cameo versus Benevento, is likely to start on the right over Brahim Diaz.
Rafael Leão in Serie A this season:
📊directly involved in a goal every 109 minutes
Good stats for a player who plays mostly on the wing. And this is just the beginning. 🔴⚫️ pic.twitter.com/BmIhHFBivC
— Football Talent Scout – Jacek Kulig (@FTalentScout) January 3, 2021
Lastly, Rafael Leao, who scored a stunning goal in the previous match, is expected to lead the line yet again. Pioli showed a lot of faith in the Portuguese in his pre-match conference and claims that Leao has a lot of strengths that Milan can benefit from. It will be interesting to see how Leao tackles a strong Juventus defence.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Donnarumma; Hernandez, Romagnoli, Kjaer, Calabria; Krunic, Kessie; Rebic, Calhanoglu, Castillejo; Leao
Pirlo’s first match against AC Milan as a Juventus manager serves as a special occasion for the Italian footballing legend who spent a significant period of his playing career at both these clubs. He admitted the importance of the game, but like his counterpart, stated that the result would not be decisive.
Juventus travel to San Siro with several absentees as well. Alvaro Morata, Juventus’ second-highest goalscorer, missed the game versus Udinese and remains sidelined with a thigh injury. Alex Sandro has tested positive for the Coronavirus and is ruled out.
🎙 Coach @Pirlo_official's virtual press conference has begun!
"After #AlexSandro tested positive, we will have the results of the team's tests in the afternoon. We started with a win and a positive attitude. We improve match after match, then we'll see."#MilanJuve pic.twitter.com/A65Y77b9uD
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) January 5, 2021
In the second round of testing, Juan Cuadrado also tested positive for the virus and will be sidelined, having just returned from suspension.
In Cuadrado’s absence, Danilo should retain his spot at right-back while Gianluca Frabotta is expected to start on the left. Matthijs De Ligt and Leonardo Bonucci are expected to retain their spots at the heart of the defence.
Juventus are expected to play in a 4-4-2 shape, that converts to a 3-4-1-2. In midfield, Juventus may persist with the duo of Aaron Ramsey and Rodrigo Bentancur, who have both impressed in recent games. Weston McKennie and Federico Chiesa offer different, yet important traits on either wing and ought to start as the wide players in Juventus’ fluid 4-4-2.
Serie A top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo should be partnered with Paulo Dybala up top, as the duo looked in sync versus Udinese and will be hopeful of repeating that performance in the crunch clash versus the league leaders.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Szczesny; Frabotta, Bonucci, De Ligt, Danilo; Chiesa, Bentancur, Ramsey, McKennie; Ronaldo, Dybala
- Having won 4-2 in July 2020, AC Milan would be hoping to make it consecutive wins versus Juventus for the first time since 2010.
- AC Milan have scored in each of their last 17 home games in the Serie A, a new record for the Rossoneri who failed to score last time on January 6th 2020. Exactly a year ago.
- Juventus have only lost a single game this season in the Serie A and boast the second-best defence in the league. The Bianconeri have conceded 14 goals, just one less than Hellas Verona who have conceded 13.
- In six of the last eight Serie A games, AC Milan have been leading at both, half time and full time. They have also scored 2 or more goals in their previous 17 Serie A games.
- This is the first time since 2015 that the two teams are meeting in the Serie A where AC Milan are ahead of Juventus in the league table.
Player to Watch
Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 50% of Juventus' total goals this season. pic.twitter.com/J7LgMwJiXf
— The CR7 Timeline. (@TimelineCR7) January 4, 2021
In the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, AC Milan have found a way to keep their goals coming. However, that is not quite the case for Juventus. The Bianconeri have only won one of the six games where Cristiano Ronaldo did not score or play at all – an astonishing stat considering the all-round quality available at the club.
Ronaldo already has 14 goals in 11 Serie A matches, and if Juventus are to get anything out of this fixture, it will be their Portuguese star that will be at the centre of things yet again. Despite Pirlo downplaying the importance and consequences of the fixture, Juventus are in need of all three points at San Siro to keep the pressure on Milan and they would look to their frontman for inspiration once again.
AC Milan 2-1 Juventus
AC Milan have shown immense spirit this season as time and time again, they have delivered results from the unlikeliest of situations. With Juventus over-reliant on Cristiano Ronaldo and dealing with a lot of absentees at the back, free-scoring Milan could end up being a handful for Pirlo’s men.
Milan are on an inspired run and have the belief that they can achieve anything. A 2-1 win in the Rossoneri’s favour looks to be on the cards, with the hosts likely to emerge comfortable victors, provided they are able to keep Ronaldo quiet.