After the derby defeat against Inter, AC Milan are currently gearing up for yet another tough game, taking on Juventus in the Coppa Italia semi-final. On Thursday evening, the first leg will take place at San Siro.
It will be an important game for the Rossoneri to regain some of the confidence that they lost on Sunday. However, it will also be a challenge for Stefano Pioli to motivate his players, although the lust for revenge may be enough.
Although they are miles ahead of the Rossoneri, Juventus are currently in a similar position, having lost their clash with Hellas Verona at the weekend. Therefore, we can expect to see two teams eager to prove themselves.
Game date: Thursday 13 February
Kick-off time: 20:45 (CET)
Venue: San Siro
Referee: Paolo Valeri
Fortunately, Pioli won’t have to deal with many injuries, nor suspensions, for this game. Given the importance of the game, therefore, the starting eleven could be similar to the one that faced Inter.
According to the latest reports, there could be some changes in the backline, switching things up after conceding four last time out. Instead of Simon Kjaer, who arguably could have done better against Inter, Mateo Musacchio could play from the first minute.
In addition to the centre-back position, we can expect to see Davide Calabria on the right-hand side in place of Andrea Conti (suspended), who has been heavily criticised by the Rossoneri fans in the last few days.
In midfield, Franck Kessie and Ismael Bennacer should form the tandem, as Pioli is moving forward with the 4-4-1-1/4-2-3-1 system. Samu Castillejo and Hakan Calhanoglu are more or less confirmed, but the battle on the left side is still on.
Although Ante Rebic has been in red-hot form as of late, Rafael Leao could get the chance instead to continue his development at the club. After all, we won’t get to see his best side if he just keeps getting a few minutes here and there.
Probable Milan XI (4-4-1-1): Donnarumma; Calabria, Musacchio (Kjaer), Romagnoli, Theo; Castillejo, Kessie, Bennacer, Rebic (Leao); Calhanoglu; Ibrahimovic.
As mentioned, after the loss against Hellas Verona, there has been some tension in the Juventus environment. Of course, the fact that Inter now are tied in first with the Bianconeri didn’t exactly make things better.
In other words, Maurizio Sarri’s men have a point to prove tomorrow evening, just like their opponents. Excluding long-term injuries (Chiellini, Demiral, Khedira), the manager will have to do without the likes of Douglas Costa and Federico Bernardeschi.
However, the Bianconeri are known for having good squad depth, although the midfield has been a criticised department this season. There were rumours about Miralem Pjanic potentially getting some rest, but it looks like he will start after all.
Cristiano Ronaldo will start as usual up front, partnering up with Paulo Dybala. Meanwhile, Aaron Ramsey should get the chance from start in the trequartista role.
Probable Juventus XI (4-3-1-2): Buffon; De Sciglio, Bonucci, Rugani, Alex Sandro; Bentancur, Pjanic, Matuidi; Ramsey; Cristiano Ronaldo, Dybala.
HEAD TO HEAD
The dominance of Juventus has certainly been reflected in this fixture, as the Bianconeri have had the upper hand for quite some time now. However, Milan have managed the odd upset here and there, most notably the Supercoppa win in 2016.
Then again, the Rossoneri have struggled a lot against their upcoming opponent. In the last nine games – all competitions – they haven’t won a single time. Beating the Turin side is long overdue, in other words.
Earlier on this season, Pioli’s men put in a good performance away at the Allianz Stadium. In fact, you could even argue that they deserved to win the game, but Dybala eventually secured the three points with a piece of individual brilliance.
ONES TO WATCH
Following the impressive display against Inter, Ibrahimovic is the obvious choice at Milan. The Swede played really well in his new role, managing to link up the midfield with the attack very well. One goal and one assist just go to show how well he did.
As always, though, he will need the right service to continue his great form. Therefore, the wingers and especially Calhanoglu will have to be very focused to get things right, just like in the first half against Inter.
For Juventus, the answer is just as obvious: Ronaldo. Italian media has been keen to point out the battle between the two veterans, which certainly will be interesting to watch. With the Portuguese man in red-hot form, he will be dangerous.
In addition to the former Real Madrid man, Pjanic will be a key man for the Bianconeri. Directing the play from his midfield position, he’s one that Milan can’t give too much time. Most likely, Calhanoglu will man-mark him, as he did with Brozovic last time out.
Both teams will be looking to bounce back from their respective league defeat, using this game to do so. Therefore, despite their recent struggles, the most reasonable would be to predict a Juventus win.
However, with the San Siro expected to be sold out, Milan will be hoping that the atmosphere can help them get a decent result ahead of the second leg. While a win remains unlikely, a draw is more than possible.
Prediction: AC Milan 1-1 Juventus