Juventus v AC Milan

Serie A Week 13 –  Saturday, 21st November- 19:45 GMT – Juventus Stadium



Juventus arrive at this Calcio classic having won two straight Serie A matches in a row for the first time in this season, which is baffling considering that we are almost in December. This tells what kind of year has been so far. There is still a lot of time to recover considering that there is not a clear frontrunner in the Scudetto race and that the competitors are robbing points from each other, but the Old Lady needs to win matches of this magnitude to rekindle her title hopes, after losing to Napoli and Roma and drawing with Inter. This is the first big match the bianconeri play at the Juventus Stadium.

The last two performances were good enough to come away with three points, but the level of play still has to improve a lot. The most worrying aspect to me is that there always moments throughout the game where the team lowers the intensity level, loses all the momentum and allows the opponent to press them and create chance. Considering that the defensive phase has been poor this season, these pauses often lead to conceding. Torino played only 15 good minutes in the Derby della Mole, scored and almost doubled and Juventus were lucky to find the game-winner at the buzzer. Empoli outplayed bianconeri at the beginning of the match, thankfully we had a gutty reaction.

The squad has showed glimpses of his offensive prowess: the roster is loaded with strikers who are good scorers and other weapons, however the continuous schematic switches and, at times, the tactical confusion have not helped them creating much chemistry.

The coach should choose a tactic and stick with it. Considering that Hernanes has been a borderline train wreck and that Juan Cuadrado has been a star, it may as well be 4-3-3 or something very similar to it. It has some downsides: sometimes Alvaro Morata plays too wide and too deep to be effective; there is not any pure winger besides the Colombian ace; we have a sizeable attack built to play with two strikers; Paulo Dybala might not apt to spearhead a trident. But it is still better than the alternative, especially defensively, these issues are fixable and January is right around the corner.

At first, it looked like the international break was about to become a slaughter in terms of injuries, but luckily things got better as the days passed by: it appears that no player got significantly hurt, except for maybe the frail Martin Caceres. Gianluigi Buffon, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Mario Mandzukic were subbed off with various ailments in their respective matches: the goalkeeper and the defender due to hamstring problems, the striker because he rolled an ankle. However, they should all be good to go on Saturday night: the captain seems to be the one most in danger of missing the game, but there is optimism. Roberto Pereyra has not recovered from his hamstring injury, Kwadwo Asamoah is now nursing some knee soreness and Simone Padoin is out too.

4-3-3 is slated to be the choice for this one, even though 4-3-1-2 is reportedly gaining ground: in front of Buffon there will be for sure Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, most likely Patrice Evra and probably Lichtsteiner. Massimiliano Allegri will be able to field his best midfield: Sami Khedira, Claudio Marchisio and Paul Pogba. Juan Cuadrado has spent the break in Turin because he was disqualified so he has better chance to start than Dybala: at this point, we have understood that the real doubt is between the two dynamic playmakers and the formation obviously hinges upon that. Mandzukic would start in 4-3-3, Hernanes in 4-3-1-2, unless Allegri ditches his routine of alternating Cuadrado and Dybala in the attack.

Probable lineup:

4-3-3: Buffon; Lichsteiner, Bonucci, Chiellini, Evra; Khedira, Marchisio, Pogba; Cuadrado, Mandzukic, Morata.


Pereyra (hamstring), Asamoah (knee), Caceres (hamstring), Padoin (hamstring).






AC Milan

Milan has been the most scrutinized team in the last few months. First, they have been involved in the sale of almost half of the stocks for a hefty sum to the Thai businessman Bee Taechaubol, a deal that has not been closed yet but should go through at some point in the near future. They hired an up-and-coming (ish) coach in Sinisa Mihajlovic and then conducted a rich reinforcement campaign to try to bring Milan back to its usual levels. Time will tell if they succeeded.

Their transfer windows has had more hits than misses: Carlos Bacca is a fantastic striker, Luiz Adriano was cheap and Alessio Romagnoli was worth the money because he is very young and already very good and could start for 15 years. On the other hand, Andrea Bertolacci is a good player who was coming off a splendid season with Genoa, but he is probably not the foundational piece his price tag suggests.

The problem lays more with what they were not able to do, rather than with the players they signed: they have not found the right partner for Romagnoli; the coach has rotated in and out Rodrigo Ely, Zapata, Alex and Philippe Mexes but neither has been good enough. Furthermore, they are one midfielder short: they needed a commander, somebody with charisma who could run the team and make everyone around him better. While you can understand why they did not go for a pure deep-lying playmaker that would have been difficult to use if the coach changed his mind about the tactic, which has happened, they should have acquired a difference maker. Juraj Kucka is a stopgap, he has been solid, but they needed much more.

So far, they had mixed results but things have gotten better over the last month, after the disastrous performance against Napoli. Mihajlovic first opted for a 4-3-1-2 lineup, trying to exploit the terrific offensive duo formed by Carlos Bacca and Luiz Adriano, with various, mostly unsuccessful, attempts to find the right no.10 and Nigel De Jong as pivot. He then switched to 4-3-3 reintroducing both Riccardo Montolivo and Alessio Cerci, who had both seen limited playing time up to that point, and the performances improved. The coach plans to use 4-4-2 in the future, which should be a good fit.

They have won three of their last five matches: just as it looked like they were picking up some serious steam after a stellar game at Olimpico against Lazio, which was previously unbeaten at home, they stumbled at San Siro against Atalanta, a match where a poor road team outperformed them. You do not know what you will get from Milan on any given game: they can either play at high level, with great intensity and grit or they can have a bland showing, where they let the opponents have the better of them and they are lucky to come away with points.

They are pretty depleted: Mario Balotelli underwent sports hernia surgery and will be out for a while, De Jong picked up an hamstring injury in the last few days, Diego Lopez is dealing with patellar tendinopathy, Jeremy Menez has been out all season with a back problem and Bertolacci is not all the way back from an hamstring ailment he suffered few weeks ago.

In front of Gianluigi Donnarumma, the 16-year-old goalkeeper who had supplanted a struggling Diego Lopez even before the injury, there should be Ignazio Abate, Mexes, Romagnoli and Luca Antonelli, even though Mattia De Sciglio and Alex definitely have a shot. The recent return of Mbaye Niang from a foot fracture allows them to slot Giacomo Bonaventura in the midfield in the Bertolacci spot, alongside Kucka and Montolivo. If they decide to be a little more defensive, Bonaventura will play in the trident and Andrea Poli in the midfield.

After the last international break, in the match against Torino, Mihajlovic decided to rest Bacca who had just returned from Colombia. The striker then entered the game and scored. It will be an interesting decision, but probably this game is too big to sideline your best player. In any case, Luiz Adriano is not a bad choice either.

Their main strength is that they can sting you at any moment: Bacca is always dangerous and can create for both himself and his teammates, Luiz Adriano is very physical and has scored some big goals. Bonaventura is having a nice season and Cerci, even though he is not back at his peak Torino form, adds some creativity and pace. The key will be to prevent them from feeding their forwards. They have improved defensively as of late, but they still tend to suffer under pressure.

Probable lineup:

4-3-3: Donnarumma; Abate, Mexes, Romagnoli, Antonelli; Kucka, Montolivo, Bonaventura; Cerci, Bacca, Niang. 


Balotelli (groin), Diego Lopez (knee), Bertolacci (hamstring), Menez (back), De Jong (hamstring). 






Stats and Facts

Infographics from www.sporticos.com