AC Milan make the trip north to Turin on Saturday night to face arch-rivals Juventus looking for a turnaround from their recent fortunes.
The Rossoneri seemed to be in a comfortable position in third spot going into the Derby della Madonnina three games ago, but since then have picked up just one point out of nine, throwing their place in the top four into jeopardy.
Juve on the other hand have continued their Serie A dominance, sitting 18 points ahead of their nearest challengers Napoli, having won 26 of their 30 league games so far this season.
Pepe Reina described Saturday’s upcoming encounter at the Allianz Stadium as the ‘perfect opportunity’ for Milan to bounce back, but they will have to do so on an unhappy hunting ground.
Gennaro Gattuso has had to juggle somewhat of an injury crisis over the last few days, with all sorts of speculation ongoing as to what his starting XI could be against the Bianconeri.
The Milan boss confirmed in his pre-game press conference on Friday that Gianluigi Donnarumma and Lucas Paqueta will both sit out after injuries sustained against Udinese in midweek – the latter apparently could miss a month. Andrea Conti will also not be ready in time for the 78-mile journey.
Suso on the other hand is set to return to the starting XI, as is midfielder Franck Kessie, while Alessio Romagnoli has recovered from flu-like symptoms and looks set to start as expected.
Reports emerging just after Gattuso’s presser provided a bit of a twist though, as it is claimed that Rino tried Fabio Borini as the left-winger in a 4-3-3 formation, which could mean we see the following line-up deployed…
Likely Milan XI (4-3-3):Reina; Calabria, Musacchio, Romagnoli, Rodriguez; Kessiw, Bakayoko, Çalhanoglu; Suso, Piatek, Borini. [@]
As mentioned, Juve have stayed true to recent form and have steamrolled through Serie A once again, sitting with a comfortable cushion atop the league and closing in on their ninth consecutive Serie A title.
A lot of the media attention in the run up to this weekend’s game has actually not been about Juventus-Milan at all, rather the home side’s Champions League quarter-final first leg away at Ajax next week.
That has led to speculation that Max Allegri will field a ‘changed’ team for the game against Milan, just as we saw against Cagliari in Sardegna on Tuesday night.
Cristiano Ronaldo will not be available for the game, which gives the Diavolo a boost, while Max Allegri provided an update on other injuries during his pre-match comments.
“Dybala, Mandzukic and Spinazzola are available for tomorrow,” the former Milan boss stated.
“Khedira is to be evaluated. Douglas Costa returns on Wednesday against Ajax. Barzagli has a check in the next few days. Cuadrado is available for the match against SPAL. Caceres will be out for three weeks.
“Chiellini will most likely be out, the others I have to evaluate because we are in a good physical and mental condition then there will be four full days to recover. In the ninety minutes there will be room for everyone.”
LAST TIME OUT
Milan have already met their rivals Juventus on two occasions this season, and have come out on the losing side in both instances.
Earlier in the season at San Siro the Bianconeri ran out 2-0 winners thanks to goals from Mario Mandzukic and Cristiano Ronaldo, though the game could have been so much different had Gonzalo Higuain netted a penalty against his former club to make it 1-1.
The two sides met again in January of this year – ironically for the 2018 Supercoppa Italiana final – and Ronaldo was again on the scoresheet as Juve won 1-0 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
The Rossoneri simply haven’t had the rub of the green against Allegri’s side dating back to the start of 2017, with Juventus having won the last seven competitive fixtures between to two clubs.
Milan’s last Serie A win against Juve came back on October 22 2016, as Manuel Locatelli’s stunning strike sealed a 1-0 win at San Siro on the 100th anniversary of founder Herbert Kilpin’s death.
In order to beat the eight-time-in-a-row Serie A champions in their own back yard, regardless of the team they put out, every single Milan player will have to perform to the best of their ability.
Although a number of key players are struggling for form, there is absolutely no reason why somebody such as Suso could not rise to the occasion and provide a decisive moment of quality.
At the other end, it will be interesting to see how Romagnoli does and whether he has any hangover from his flu. If Gattuso’s side can somehow keep a clean sheet, then they have every chance.
From the opposition point of view, they will be hugely boosted by news that Paulo Dybala is fit, with the Argentine having gained somewhat of a reputation as an arch-nemesis for Milan.
After reportedly coming close to signing him while at Palermo, Dybala has often returned to haunt, having scored six goals in 13 appearances against the Rossoneri, winning 10 of those games.
There are nerves in this Milan squad without a doubt, and injuries to key players does not help the already slim chances of nicking three points.
However, Juve have the title wrapped up and their minds will subconsciously be on next week’s crucial Champions League game. A point here would be a good result for Gattuso and co. without a doubt.
Prediction: Juventus 1-1 AC Milan