AC Milan have a chance to salvage some pride from another disappointing season when they face Juventus in the Coppa Italia final.
Saturday night’s game in Rome carries a certain significance to Milanisti across the globe. A symbol of hope, the Cup has been a small ray of brightness in an otherwise cloudy sky.
Coming into the season, the Rossoneri were rejuvenated. There was hope in the form of marksman Carlos Bacca, creativity through Andrea Bertolacci, and solidarity in Alessio Romagnoli.
Now, it’s just a case of not getting annihilated by Juve – or Juvenated, I suppose.
The story so far
It couldn’t really have been much easier for Milan to get to Rome.
Four games out of six for the Rossoneri have been against opposition from lower divisions, starting with a 2-0 home win over Perugia back in August. Keisuke Honda and Luiz Adriano got the goals.
— AC Milan (@acmilan) May 18, 2016
Progressing into the fourth round and another simple tie – this time though the Diavolo were pushed all the way by Crotone. Luiz Adriano gave the San Siro side the lead before Ante Budimir responded. In the end, goals from Giacomo Bonaventura and M’Baye Niang allowed Milan to scrape through.
The most impressive of the victories came at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa, where Milan travelled for a round of 16 clash with Sampdoria. Niang and Bacca netted, and the Stadio Olimpico was getting closer.
Bacca and Niang were again the scorers as Milan beat Carpi to reach the semi finals, despite a goal from Matteo Mancosu that threatened to derail the route to the capital.
A 6-0 aggregate semi-final win over third tier Alessandria didn’t really tell the story of what was a remarkable and brave effort from L’Orso.
Mario Balotelli’s first leg penalty meant Milan just had to avoid defeat at home, and they did so convincingly as Menez (2), Romagnoli, Balotelli and an own goal rounded off a convincing 5-0 win.
Juventus on the other hand had the potential banana skin of a home round of 16 match against Torino, but they saw off their city rivals 4-0 with goals from Simone Zaza, Paulo Dybala and Paul Pogba.
The Bianconeri have already had a taste of the Coppa Italia in Rome this season, as they travelled to Lazio in the quarter finals. Stephan Lichstiener’s goal in the second half was enough to set up a semi-final with another rival in Inter.
After a textbook home leg in Turin, after which they led 3-0 after an Alvaro Morata brace and a goal from Dybala, the champions nearly threw it away.
Inter were resurgent in the second leg, pulling the tie back to 3-3 through Marcelo Brozovic (2) and Ivan Perisic, before Juve eventually progressed on penalties.
AC Milan limped to a seventh place finish, winning just one of their last five games as they surrendered sixth spot to Sassuolo.
Two draws against Carpi and Frosinone and a defeat to Hellas Verona put the nail in the coffin under Cristian Brocchi.
The team finished with 57 points from 38 games, with 15 wins and 11 losses – a below par season to say the least.
Juventus were almost out of the title race in October, but somehow came back to secure a fifth consecutive Scudetto thanks to a remarkable second half of the season.
After a defeat to Sassuolo, Allegri’s side went on a run of 25 matches in which they took 73 points from a possible 75 as they rampaged the league to beat Napoli to top spot.
When they last met
Juve were somewhat fortunate to do a league double over Milan this season, as the Rossoneri put in resilient performances but failed to get reward.
Paulo Dybala’s goal on 65 minutes was enough to win the game in Turin back on November 21st, while Mario Mandzukic and Paul Pogba cancelled out Alex’s opener at San Siro as the visitors won 2-1.
The bad news doesn’t stop there. The Rossoneri are winless in eight against Juventus stretching back to 2012.
Milan expect M’Baye Niang to play a part on the final, but it is possible the Frenchman may come off the bench.
Luca Antonelli and Ignazio Abate will miss out, according to Sky, with Davide Calabria and Mattia de Sciglio to start in the full-back positions.