Seven-time European Champions, A.C. Milan, are set to host the Serie A title holders, Juventus in what will be one of the decisive encounters early in the season itself. The former did not manage to secure a berth in the Champions League this time due to their poor 7th place finish last season, whereas the visitors wrapped up a 2-0 win over the Swedish side Malmo in the first round of their group stage fixtures.
This clash is the first major fixture of Serie A 2014-15 and will be fiercely contested as both the teams will aim to continue their winning run, having won their opening two games.
The first encounter between Italy's top 2 sides will be played at San Siro stadium, which is home to both the Milan teams- A.C Milan and Inter Milan. The stadium boasts a capacity of 80,018 and it will be Milan’s second game at home for this season.
The match is scheduled for a 00:15 AM (IST), Sunday kick-off and will be telecasted on Star Sports4.
A.C Milan - With Diego Lopez being ruled out of the clash due an injury which he collected in Sunday's 5-4 win over Parma, Michael Agazzi will be handed his debut, in goal. In the defensive lineup, Alex will miss the crucial fixture due to an injury whereas Bonera will be serving his 1-match ban. Adil Rami and Christian Zapata will supercede the aforementioned duo in the central defense. Going further ahead, the quartet of Andrea Poli, Nigel de Jong and Sulley Muntari may be retained as the custodian of the midfield whereas Keisuke Honda, Jeremy Menez and Stephan El Shaarawy will be leading the attack with Fernando Torres starting on the bench.
Predicted lineup: Agazzi; Abate, Rami, Zapata, De Sciglio; Poli,de Jong, Muntari; Honda, Menez, El Shaarawy.
Juventus - Gianluigi Buffon will be guarding the Juve net as usual. Ahead of him is the defensive trio of Giorgio Cheilli, who will return from 3 match suspension,Martin Caceres and Leonardo Bonucci. At the centre, ‘Le Zebre’ will be perked up by the return of the Chilean international Arturo Vidal, who will be chaperoned by Claudio Marchisio and Paul Pogba, with Patrice Evra and Stephan Lichtsteiner flanking from the left and the right respectively. Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez will be at the helm of the attack.
Predicted lineup: Buffon; Caceres, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichsteiner, Marchisio, Vidal, Pogba, Evra; Tevez, Llorente.
Nigel de Jong vs Arturo Vidal
The Dutch midfielder has been in great form since the start of 2014-15 season, having scored a goal and assist another and also had a passing accuracy of 88%. De Jong is also adept at playing long balls and shooting from distance. However, in this fixture, he will be up against the dynamic Chilean, Arturo Vidal, who has shot to fame ever since he joined the Turin outfit. The 27-year old is one of the most influential figure of Juventus squad and is proficient at making key passes and tackling.
This fierce midfield battle will certainly have ramifications on the final result.
Cristian Zapata vs Carlos Tevez
The Argentinian finally broke his goal-less run in Europe in this midweek and may now build on it to keep the goals coming. Thwarting his ambitions is what Milan centre-back Christian Zapata will be aiming at. The Milan defense has been horrendous in their first two opening games of the domestic league, conceding a massive 5 goals. The Colombian will,therefore, have to be on his guard when he will be taking on Tevez, as the inform striker may capitalise on even the most minor of the errors.
Both teams have ushered in new eras with a new face at the helm. Both these teams have fared appreciably well in the league and occupy the first and the second positions in the table, respectively. Although Milan had a promising start under Inzaghi, their defense has been woeful and it is something that the Juventus attackers will be looking to exploit. On the other hand, the visitors are yet to concede a goal in the league and have maintained equilibrium with the attack.
Milan still have a long way to go,if they are to contend on both fronts and this match will serve as a litmus test for them.
Predicted score: AC Milan 1-3 JuventusPublished 20 Sep 2014, 11:58 IST