AC Milan vs Juventus: Match preview
Stadium: Stadio Giuseppe Meazza
Referee: Nicola Rizzoli
Kick-off: 1:15 AM (IST), Monday, 26th of November
What used to be a top-of-the-table clash has now been reduced to a battle between table toppers Juventus and a struggling AC Milan, who are currently battling a lengthy list of injuries and mid table obscurity at the same time. With Juve having over twice as many points as Milan, this fixture seems likely to hold more emotional significance than an actual even contest, given Juve’s domination in the league. With ten wins from their thirteen matches, compared to Milan’s four, there is no doubt over who go into this match as odds-on favourites to win.
Milan have been in a slump since the beginning of this season, and would have time and again regretted the mistake of letting Pirlo walk away for nothing. While reinforcements helped them to a second place finish last season, the performances have been woefully below par this time round, and only a relatively easy group has helped them secure progress in the Champions League with a game to spare. There are plenty of concerns all across the pitch, but the one which seems most striking is that in defence, with Milan having conceded twice as many goals as Juve this season.
AC Milan: W D L D W
It has been a season of mixed performances for Milan thus far, with impressive wins on a few occasions being crumpled by flat defeats on the very next. Massimiliano Allegri has a tough job on his hands, as his side have not only failed to gel together as a unit, but have also been hit by a spate of injuries, especially in defence. With just one clean sheet in their last twelve competitive fixtures, Milan have been leaking goals like nobody’s business, and have paid the price with 6 losses in the league already, the same as they had the whole of last season.
Their problems have not been localised just to defence, as their midfield has struggled as well, in particular Kevin Prince Boateng who has scored exactly 0 times from 42 attempts. 75% of their 20 league goals have come from just 2 men, Shaarawy, and Pazzini, leaving one to wonder what fate awaits this club if misfortune is to strike either of the two forwards. As it is their prospects do not look too bright, with just one win to show for their last four league fixtures.
Juventus: L W W D W
Coming into the game with 13 goals scored in their last four fixtures, the Turin club have no problems finding the back of the net whatsoever. Defensively as well, Juve have an excellent record with clean sheets in three of their last four competitive fixtures, and just 9 goals conceded overall in the league. Additionally, there are no real fitness concerns for manager Conte, with the exception of Giorgio Chiellini who sustained a late knock against Chelsea in the Champions League.
Thus all seems perfect for Juve, with the exception of the goalless draw last weekend with Lazio, which may be attributed to a couple of key players being rested ahead of the key clash against Chelsea, and an excellent performance from Lazio’s ‘keeper Federico Marchetti. An optimistic Juve squad should head for Milan, then, with five wins and a draw from their six away games in the league thus far.
Juventus: Giorgio Chiellini.
AC Milan: Djamel Mesbah, Alexandre Pato, Sulley Ali Muntari, Luca Antonini, Ignazio Abate, Daniele Bonera, Massimo Ambrosini, Bakaye Traore, Rodney Strasser, Didac Rosello.
Stephan El Shaarawy vs Andrea Barzagli
The Serie A’s top scorer comes up against one of the Serie A’s top defenders in this fascinating clash. Young El Shaarawy has been absolutely magnificent this season, fighting his way into the starting line up, and scoring regularly for last season’s runners-up. With assistance hard to come by, Shaarawy has often taken on defenders on his own, and more often than not beaten them with his guile and tricky feet. Manager Allegri has heaped praise on his striker, and will hope that he can get the better of Barzagli on Sunday night. Barzagli has been the most consistent performer of Juve’s three man defence, however, and will look to contain the forward with his tough tackling and no non-sense clearances.
Arturo Vidal vs Mario Yepes
For a free scoring Juventus, there have been multiple finishers who have managed to get their names on the score sheet, and one of the most consistent has been Chilean Arturo Vidal who has netted a total of 9 goals in all competition for his club. Excellent at surging behind the opposing defence from midfield, Vidal is in red hot form as well, having scored 5 times in his last 6 matches, and provided a further 2 assists. Up against a Mario Yepes and an AC Milan defence who have overall struggled to implement the offside trap, Vidal seems a prime contender to score. Colombian Yepes, however, brings a lot of experience on to the pitch and may look to combat the forward runs with some excellent positioning.
A relatively easy win for Juventus. The Italian champions know they can afford to slip up in this game, and yet stay top of the league, but that knowledge has only allowed them to play freely, without the added pressure of competition. Up against a Milan side who are low on players, confidence, points, and almost everything else, there is but one result in sight. The home fans would do well to dampen their expectations heading into the match lest they leave too disappointed.