Which Italian Side Has the Best Chance of Winning the Champions League?

Daniel ManichelloContributor IIIOctober 24, 2012

ROME, ITALY - OCTOBER 20:  Stephan El Shaarawy of AC Milan shows his dejection during the Serie A match between S.S. Lazio and AC Milan at Stadio Olimpico on October 20, 2012 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)
Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Milan or Juventus?

There are only two Champions League candidates from the Serie A this year for the first time since the 1998-99 (when there were only six groups) edition of the continental tournament.. 

On talent and depth alone, Juve seemed the logical candidate to make the deeper run in Europe this year, but three games without a win does not inspire much confidence.  

Milan, having exported their top talent abroad in the offseason, seemed the likely candidate for an early exit. And while their domestic campaign has been close to disastrous, the Rossoneri look comfortable and confident playing in Europe.

At least in midweek fixtures, Milan is overachieving and its the Turin giants struggling to replicate their domestic form. New additions, particularly Sebastian Giovinco, whose drought in front of goal should worry any Bianconeri fan, were brought into relieve some of the burden off the overworked midfield.  Instead, the goals have come from Vidal, Bonucci, Quaglirella and Vucinic (the latter two coming off the bench in the second half). 

Milan, albeit facing arguably weaker opposition, are buoyed by their European form. The emergence of Stephen El-Shaarawy, the return of a healthy Alexandre Pato and the formidable strike partnership they might form has infused even faint glimmers of optimism amongst supporters.

Surprisingly for two teams who play in imposing venues, neither sides' home form has been superb. Milan was held to a scoreless draw at the San Siro in their first group fixture by Belgian minnows Anderlecht. Juventus survived a late surge from the Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donestsk to preserve a 1-1 scoreline in their only match at their new stadium.

On the other hand, both clubs have earned vital away points so far.  Milan got three in Russia versus Zenit St. Petersburg while Juventus shared the points at Stamford Bridge after being behind on two sensational Oscar goals to defending European champions Chelsea.

The road out of the group stage looks a bit easier for Milan. They play the next two games against the group leaders Malaga before facing Anderlecht and Zenit again. Three of their remaining four games are at the San Siro.

Juve's away draw to Nordsjælland on match day three leaves them trailing both Shakhtar and Chelsea in the group with three matches to play.  Two of their next three will be at home, including the return against Chelsea, but the final match day sees the Italian champions travel to Ukraine in the first week of December.

As it stands, Milan is poised to advance to the second round and Juventus, after a two-year hiatus from the tournament, will be out before Christmas. Beyond that, it's hard to see Milan topping the main challengers for the trophy this year. Barcelona, Madrid, Manchester United and Bayern Munich are simply a class above the rest.