Mesbah believes Milan-Juventus clash is ‘important but not decisive’ in title race

By Oliver Fisher -

Former AC Milan player Djamel Mesbah believes that the game against Juventus on Sunday night will be an important indicator in the Scudetto race, but not decisive.

Milan and Juve share the oldest running and most played rivalry in Italy, having faced each other for the first time in 1901. They are the two most successful clubs in Italy in terms of trophies won and size.

Milan go into the game top of the league and four points above Juventus who are in third place, while city rivals Inter are in second place and two points behind, showing just how big an early-season contest it is.

Prior to recent years it had been a one-sided rivalry in terms of results, with the Diavolo winning one game in 22 between January 2013 and July 2020, which many consider to be rebuilding years.

Last season marked the first time since 2009-10 that Milan did the double over Juventus, with a 2-0 victory at San Siro (goals from Tomori and Brahim Diaz) followed by a 1-0 in Turin that Giroud netted the winner in.

If you think you can call which way it will go then check out the greatest online sportsbooks. Mesbah knows it well, having played against Juventus in the Coppa Italia semi-finals and even scoring in Turin in the second leg.

He spoke during an interview with MilanNews ahead of the game to preview what will be one of the crucial clashes of the early season.

Is Milan-Juventus already decisive in the Scudetto race?

“I had Allegri at Milan and, as he would say, it is a game of great importance and to be won, but not decisive for the Scudetto. In terms of points, Juve needs them, in the event of a victory, to gain points on the Rossoneri, at Pioli’s team to consolidate the lead. Right now, there is nothing decisive yet.”

Last season Milan failed to put up much of a Scudetto defence as their league form tailed off in the new year and while they did reach the Champions League semi-finals, they were beaten by Inter.

Speaking of Pioli’s team, have you noticed a clear improvement compared to last season?

“A year and a half ago, I went to Milanello to see a training session conducted by Pioli. I had no doubts about the project he had in mind.

“He wanted to bring Milan back to winning ways and, in a very short time, they obtained the Scudetto and the semi-final of the Champions League.

“Tactically he wants an aggressive team, always in control of the game. What was done this year was simply to improve the staff with a few more top-quality players.”

The Rossoneri management were very busy during the summer transfer window as they signed 10 players after the sale of Sandro Tonali to Newcastle, spending on the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Christian Pulisic, Tijjani Reijnders, Yunus Musah and Samuel Chukwueze.

Which new signings impressed you the most?

“Everyone, I would say. If I have to name just one, I’d say Pulisic. Intelligent footballer, already with international experience. I, personally, think that Leao is an added value for Milan. I played with Ibrahimovic: if he defines you as a football genius, there is a reason. He’s not one to give out compliments.”

Milan will face Juventus without Maignan and Theo Hernandez. Who will be the most significant absence?

“I say that of Maignan, because he is a key goalkeeper precisely in the type of football that Pioli wants to play: he plays out from the back and helps you in the first pressure, as well as being a phenomenon between the posts. Theo is also important offensively. But do you know what is there?”

Go on…

“In my opinion, Milan have a competitive squad even with the so-called ‘reserves’. So I think that these two absences weigh, but not too much, on the type of match that Pioli will want to prepare against Juve.”

Are Milan favourites for the Scudetto?

“It seems to me that Milan have shown what they are made of. Many people talk about the lost derby, but I’m noticing that the Rossoneri aren’t losing a point even against the so-called “small” teams. These are the determining factors that make you win a title.”


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