Top billing in Serie A‘s Round 23 is crucial on so many levels!
Juventus are on the up!!
Watching both of these sides this season is a very interesting experience. AC Milan who finally came out of their "age of darkness" in the last couple of years, want to get even more ground while Juventus, who lost their monopoly on the Scudetto want to get back at the thick of it.
The recent record suggests a certain balance as in their last 5 league outings, each side has 2 wins and a draw. This includes a win for each side away to their opponents.
Currently, Juventus seem to be on the upward trajectory, losing only once in 11 matches with 8 wins in that period. Comparing that to the early stutterings of the season, this feels like champions form, which is a good omen if you are a Juventus fan. However, this form doesn't come without its issues. Allegri's outfit haven't been exactly convincing though they get the job done. 10 sides have stronger attacks than Juventus, while defensively they are still in a decent pedestal as they are the 3rd strongest with 25 goals conceded (which is still high for an Italian side).
Creativity and consistency seem to be an issue, and not necessarily results. Their performances vary through each game, to the point that topping a group where they are with Chelsea in the Champions League still seems like an unbelievable task. Although they lost 4-0 at Stamford Bridge, so that can negate the previous point.
AC Milan on the other side, finally feel in a way like the side they were years ago. Stefano Pioli has done a tremendous job building a solid side around a good core and an experienced head in 40 year-old wonder Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who still is the focal point even at that age.
Although their form still a bit patchy, losing 2 from the last 5, they still are near Inter and can mount a title charge with a bit of consistency. They have been unlucky as far as their squad goes, losing various players at numerous points of the season + COVID issues made their squad thin as paper particularly in the Champions League, which they left early.
Now that they only have domestic competitions to focus on, one can expect more drive from "IL Rossonerri" as they are still within a touching distance from their city rivals.
Allegri knows how crucial this game is!
Juventus are currently two points behind Atalanta in the 4th place, and 7 behind their Sunday opponents. Cosequently, you can predict how important this game is especially for Juventus, who feel like the side in form heading into this clash. On the other hand, Milan know as well that their chances of mounting a title race of any sorts hedge on beating the likes of Juventus, Napoli, and Inter.
However, actually doing that for both sides on the pitch is, of course, a completely different matter.
Simon Kjaer, Pietro Pellegri, Fikayo Tomori, and
Alessandro Plizzari are still a long term miss for some of them, as far as AC Milan, added to the African trio Bennacer, Kessie, and Ballo Toure with the latter two still on AFCON duty. Which means a full squad aside from that for Pioli. For Allegri, only Bonucci and long term absentee Federico Chiesa are certain to miss with a fit squad to choose from otherwise.
Tactically, this game will be played in the middle from my point of view. Juventus will try and be as quick in transition as possible to hit AC Milan behind the defenders, although Chiesa's absence might force them to go a more direct route, relying on long balls and crosses to Morata.
AC Milan though, will want to play their usual style of smooth football under Pioli with great movement and positioning playing off Ibrahimovic or Giroud in the spaces and relying on Saelemaekers and Leao's skill and craft.
AC Milan (4-2-3-1): Maignan (GK) - Florenzi/Kalulu/Romagnoli/T.Hernandez - Tonali/Krunic - Diaz/Leao/Saelemaekers - Ibrahimovic.
Juventus (4-2-3-1): Szczesny (GK) - Cuadrado/De Ligt/Chiellini/Sandro - Bentancur/Locatelli - Dybala/Bernerdeschi/Mckennie - Morata.
My Prediction: a tough game that can be very physical considering the stakes, so i expect a 1-1 draw or a 2-1 Juve win. But to be strict, my final prediction is a 1-1 draw.
If you like this preview, share it around, and comment. Reach out on Twitter @GouesmiO if you want to debate or just chat. Until next time!!