AC Milan will look to put their disappointment of not qualifying for the Champions League behind them as they take on Juventus in the Coppa Italia final. A win would give the Rossoneri silverware and direct qualification to the Europa League group stages for 2018/19.
Gattuso’s men are starting to find their feet again just at the right time, as they are coming off two Serie A wins against Bologna and Hellas Verona. They are currently in sixth place in the standings with Atalanta and Fiorentina breathing down their necks in the battle for a Europa League spot.
The Rossoneri reached the final by beating Lazio on penalties in the semis. A victory against Juventus in the Coppa Italia would allow Milan to face the final two games of the Serie A with nothing to play for.
Gattuso is expected to use a very similar lineup to the one that took the field against Verona in Serie A. According to most reports, the only exception will be Davide Calabria to take the spot of Ignazio Abate. The preferred pairing of Leonardo Bonucci and Alessio Romagnoli will get the nod in the heart of the defense, with Ricardo Rodriguez rounding out the back four.
Lucas Biglia has been called up to the squad; however, doesn’t seem like he will have enough match fitness to earn a starting place. Manuel Locatelli is set to start in place of the Argentine again. He will be joined in midfield by Franck Kessie and Giacomo Bonaventura.
The attacking trio of Suso, Patrick Cutrone and Hakan Calhanoglu also gets the nod for the second straight match.
Likely AC Milan XI (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Calabria, Bonucci, Romagnoli, Rodriguez; Kessie, Locatelli, Bonaventura; Suso, Cutrone, Calhanoglu.
Just as Milan are coming off of two straight Serie A wins, so are the Bianconeri. Juventus are coming off victories against Inter and Bologna which has propelled them to their seventh consecutive scudetto. They have not mathematically won the competition as of yet, but all they need now is one point from their final two matches.
Juventus reached the final of this competition by beating Atalanta 2-0 on aggregate in the semifinal and are in search of their fourth straight Coppa Italia title.
Max Allegri will be putting out his strongest side possible, although they will be missing the heart of their defense in Giorgio Chiellini. Gonzalo Higuain is set to start in attack with the support of Douglas Costa and Paulo Dybala. Miralem Pjanic is set to control the tempo in midfield for Juve as he does so often. Gianluigi Buffon will start in goal in what could be the last final of his illustrious career.
Likely Juventus XI (4-3-2-1): Buffon; Cuadrado, Barzagli, Benatia, Alex Sandro; Khedira, Pjanic, Matuidi; Douglas Costa, Dybala; Higuain.
LAST TIME OUT
As stated earlier, the last match for Milan was a 4-1 victory against Hellas Verona in Serie A. Even though the scoreline wouldn’t surprise anyone, it was an important victory for the Rossoneri.
Calhanoglu proved that he is rounding into great form as he was on scorer’s sheet for the second straight game. The match also provided Romagnoli with match fitness as he had missed a few weeks due to injury. Lastly, youngster Cutrone found the back of the net for the first time since he scored in a 3-2 victory against Chievo in March. The goal came at the right time for the Italian as his confidence will be high heading into this big match.
There will be many key players for the Rossoneri in this match, starting with the LB, Rodriguez. Reports suggest Allegri is prepared to use Juan Cuadrado as a right-back in this match which means the Swiss international will have his hands full and can’t afford any mishaps.
Locatelli is going to be key in midfield as he substitutes for Biglia. Biglia had been great for Milan in controlling the game and linking up the defense and attack. Locatelli has struggled this season but has been given an opportunity by Gattuso during Biglia’s absence, and he will look to prove to his manager and the club that he can be depended on in big matches going forward.
Lastly, in attack all eyes will be on Suso. While Calhanoglu has been great for Milan this season and especially in the past two matches, they will undoubtedly need both him and Suso to perform in order to break down the Juventus defense. Suso has to show up in a big match like this in order for his team to be successful.
This will be a very difficult match for the Diavolo, as Juventus are still the strongest side in Italy and will want to win this competition in order to silence the doubters who have said their 2017/18 campaign has been unsuccessful.
Milan will want to get back to winning titles, and this would be a great first step for the future. With the team rounding into form at the right time, and Gattuso passing along his motivation and hunger onto the players, I believe they can win this match. Look for an exciting and close encounter.
Prediction: Juventus 1-2 Milan