Serie A Preview: Juventus v. AC Milan

Date: Saturday, November 21, 2015

Kickoff: 2:45 PM ET (USA) / 20:45 CET (ITA)

League Position: Milan (6), Juventus (7)

Juventus Stadium, Turin, Italy

After rocky starts both of these long-time rivals have found a bit of a groove, each tasting defeat just once in the past six rounds. Milan, having picked up eleven points in the past five, look to keep the good times rolling by defeating an opponent they’ve only managed to vanquish in some meaningless friendlies for the past few years.

It might look as though Milan are catching Juventus at a bad time for the Rossoneri, as the Old Lady are on an upswing. But they have some key players struggling for fitness, and with Champions League play scheduled for next week, we may have actually lucked into a situation in which they are quite vulnerable.

To me, this smacks of a classic Allegri match in which he fails to properly energize his side. Mihajlovic may be tempted to play it conservatively too, as most would be happy with a point from this match, but I fear either manager choosing to sit back could be a real blunder. Well, I only fear our blunders really. I actively encourage Juve’s.

Tale of the Tape

Last 6 Serie A matches:

Milan: LDWWWD
Juventus: WDWLWW

It’s not been vintage Juventus so far this season, but the Bianconeri have still lost just one match in their past 38 at home.

Good news everyone! Juventus have scored just once from set pieces all season. Their free kick takers are probably relishing this match-up since we have conceded 6, but the 5 they’ve let in presents an opportunity for us, having tallied 6 of our own. In what could be a very cagey match, one set piece goal could very well be all that separates these sides on Saturday.

Expect some physicality in this tense match that neither side wants to lose, perhaps more than they want to win. Juve and Milan are 4th and 5th in Serie A in terms of fouls committed per match, but Juve are bottom of the table when it comes to successful tackles. With our new-found confidence from set pieces, it wouldn’t hurt to take a few direct runs at the likes of Chiellini and Bonnuci.

Juventus attack up the middle 30% of the time, close to tops in Serie A. It will be interesting to see what this does to our width. Kucka and Bonaventura may need to pinch inside more than usual, so how we establish our presence on the flanks will be important.

We have one more win on the season despite having had far, far less of the ball. With possession and pass success disparities of around 10%, it will be very difficult not to let Juventus boss this match.

Let the Wookie win!

Let the Wookie win!

Missing Pieces

Balotelli’s going to be out for a little while longer now after surgery. Menez remains no where to be found. De Jong, Diego Lopez, and Bertolacci round out the injury report for Milan.

Pereyra, Asamoah, and Padoin will miss out for Juve, while the likes of Buffon, Caceres, Lichtsteiner, and Mandzukic are all struggling for fitness.

Possible Line-up

Donnarumma

De Sciglio – Mexes – Romagnoli – Antonelli

Kucka – Montolivo – Bonaventura

Cerci – Bacca – Niang

What I’ve got here is the same line-up that started against Atalanta, only with a returned Bonaventura replacing Poli. It’s not that it’s a perfect line-up (obviously) but I think the consistency in the side has been a real boon, whether or not you truly agree with the personnel selected.

If you thought starting a 16-year old in goal was shocking, how are you feeling now that Donnarumma seems to have actually cemented his place in the side? I still worry about the experience and maturity factor catching up to him at some point, but the young man has been mostly poised and is performing well so far. We’ve been clamoring for more youth for a few years now, I guess we can’t complain even when it’s placed between the posts.

Abate is back but I see no reason to change this back line right now. Mexes’ presence is always slightly terrifying, but when he’s on good behavior I think he still is the best partner we’ve got for Romagnoli. Another wonder goal or two would be nice.

Bonaventura’s return gives our midfield a more attacking tint, but while Kucka and Montolivo have played reasonably well, there is still a spark missing in our midfield.

Niang put in a very encouraging display in his return last round but it’s clear he and Bacca need some time to gel together. He’s a dangerous weapon for us though and all efforts should be made to make that work. If Bacca can get comfortable with some more hold-up play, having Niang and Cerci buzzing around off of the flanks could turn this into a consistently exciting trio.

Looks like Donnarumma might have some competition after all!

Looks like Donnarumma might have some competition after all!

What to Watch for:

Danger Man – Still a lot of fellas to choose from here even with Juventus just starting to fire on all cylinders. Dybala’s top scorer with five so far and Pogba’s mercurial qualities are well known, but this week I’m going with Cuadrado simply because he always seems to be where the action is. He’s been fouled a remarkable 37 times on the season, proof positive that he’s a thorn in any opposition’s side. He can dribble, distribute, and even disrupt in the midfield when tracking back. Hopefully we’ll have the better Colombian on Saturday.

Patience – Even though I do think we should go for the win on Saturday, caution is still greatly advised. Juventus have had much more possession and I don’t expect that to change. They play a ton of short passes, like to dribble, and rarely lump the ball forward, preferring to use wide play to get crosses into the box rather than going route one. What I do hope (expect would be a strong word) to change, is the absurdly high number of long balls we still attempt every match. Montolivo, for me, is the main culprit here. And while his tendency to look for a home run ball does produce the spectacular once in a while, it simply hands possession back to the opposition far too often, especially against strong aerial squads like Juve. With quick, reasonably skillful players like De Sciglio, Antonelli, Niang, and Cerci now manning the flanks, we should keep the ball on the deck much more, and create from the outside in rather than attempting to bypass our admittedly weak midfield altogether.

 

About Dave Lamb

Dave Lamb is a lifelong Milan supporter, public school teacher, and aspiring stand-up comedian living in Boston. You can follow him on twitter @DaveLambComedy

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